Today it feels like I love too many people. I know it seems like a silly thing to say, but the truth is that with all the wonderful things that love brings, it is also accompanied by loss. Today I am feeling the acuteness of the prospect of losing my dear cousin Irv Spivak who, by the looks of things may not be with us much longer. We weren’t born as cousins but did adopt each other after I proposed our cousinhood on one knee at Little Henry’s Italian Restaurant in SF about 15 years ago. I wish he was lucid enough now to tell the story one more time. He liked to embellish, aside from his usual dramatic flair, that the reason that I asked him to become family was so he wouldn’t be able to try to sleep with me any longer. Always laughs. And then more laughs. Always though, there were expressions of love and appreciation. I will miss him dearly.
What I am seeing now, is that with love comes attachment, and with attachment comes loss. Without attachment, there can be no real loss. We can learn to gracefully surrender that attachment when the time comes, but however skilled or calloused we may become in witnessing a loved one exiting our lives, there remains a severing that happens. With that severing, or with even the prospect or advent of that severing, comes loss.
Today, I am touched not just by that loss, but by the extrapolation of that loss to to all the people in my life that I have come to love and can’t imagine losing. At times like this, when the pain of loss can be so acute, it seems like folly to love as many people as I do. I know there’s no real choice in the matter, but it’s still not easy. The beauty is that sadness only exists when there is love, and my heart, my head, my whole body feels filled with that love and gratitude.
Loss is also the most poignant reminder of the preciousness that exists here and now, in every interaction, in every relationship that we have, whether it be with a family member, a friend, a lover or even the bagging clerk at the local grocery. Loss is the only situation I can think of where there is a residual which remains before something happens. Preciousness is the present moment residual of future loss. When we truly recognize that the people we love will not always be here, it connects us to the preciousness of that which is here now.
I have made it a practice to try to remember to wave goodbye to people when they are leaving my home, and watch them drive away, treating this departure as a final chance at a farewell and acknowledgment of my love and appreciation. People do die sometimes before we get a chance to truly say “goodbye” so I do my best to make sure my “farewells” take that into account. My midwest upbringing taught me the virtues of stepping outside to wave goodbye when people leave. I’ve simply added my own inner acknowledgment that this time may be the last time. The wave is often followed by a simple silent bow of gratitude.
Here is a poem of mine which touches on some of these feelings:
You Have No Idea
You have no idea how precious this is,
You and I. Connected. Now.
The next moment unpromised as it must.
There will come a tick in time which will be my last,
and a tock entirely yours.
And for every two lives that tick and tock,
In one form of love or another,
And all connections are forms of love,
There will be a final sounding.
You have no idea how precious this is.
Naming in the mirror as I wept
All whom I love,
Trailing each name,
Alive now or once passed,
With the word “dead.”
Reminding myself of our impermanence,
Name by name.
Over and over.
Loss by loss.
“Please not you!” I wailed.
Name by name.
Heartstroke by heartstroke.
Spadeful by spadeful.
My list vast and deep as oceanic love.
“You have no idea how precious this is,” wiping the tears away,
Imploring to teach myself what somehow I have not yet come to fully know.
Of five quintillion possible human unions,
And yes, I did the math,
Ours has happened upon us.
Dare we unveil of ourselves
Something only ours?
Children in the back wood sharing unknotted secret kerchiefs
Filled with peregrine feathers, decoder rings,
And stones like human eyes.
For all we know, your clock may tick or mine tock
Before our paths again cross.
Isn’t that enough to work a little extra with shovels and sweat,
To hollow a pool
That the stars may reflect our beauty?