Wednesday, September 11, 2013

After the first death

I have not let loose on the Bluepepper community for quite some time, and for that I apologise, dear reader. Sadly, I have been pre-occupied with matters of heart and soul and the illness of two very dear friends. One is still with us and thriving, thank you very much. The other, I regret to say is not. The former, the beautiful and talented daughter of one of my oldest friends, has been struggling with mental illness that reached a crisis point a year ago and this has entailed a series of trips to Melbourne by yours truly to lend support as both father figure and friend in the absence of either. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, she is now happily back on track. It was nevertheless a tumultuous six months which at times threatened to consume me, so torn between the conflicting emotions of love and fear was your intrepid blogger. At times I felt like a spider trapped in his own web as a pattern of co-dependency began to develop and I found part of me dreading the day she would recover and no longer need me. My fears proved unfounded, of course, but it took its toll on me nevertheless, and all the while my dog and almost constant companion for 16 years, Buster, was dying. Last Thursday he finally left us quickly and painlessly, leaving those left behind to work through the five stages of grief: Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I am presently hovering somewhere between the first and second stages.

I have become practiced in grief. It is one of the unfortunate side-effects of living the life I have lived for as long as I have lived it. As I write this, Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is playing over the Station Bar speakers. Perhaps no song, and no life of a singer, sums up the consequences and responsibilities of living as does that great anthem of the post-punk era. It has got me thinking of all the great poems of love and loss and mourning, such as Dylan Thomas' "A refusal to mourn the death by fire, of a child in London", with its arresting final line "After the first death there is no other". I think of the underlying sadness in that same poet's "Poem in October", which almost seems to contain the cadence of his own imminent passing. Through all the grief of my past two years, indeed of the past 13 years of my life since my mother left us on this very day in 2000, I have been both consoled and challenged by the East European masters, Zbigniew Herbert and Czeslaw Milosz, not to forget Wislawa Szymborska, all who have experienced grief to an inordinate degree, living when they did where they did, and who all exhibit the same courage and humility in the face of death and loss that seem so sadly absent from our culture.

I admit I have developed a pattern of mourning that involves wine and poetry, but I am only human, dear reader, and I don't believe by doing so I am seeking an easy path. There is no easy path through this life, not if you want to live it to its fullest. That is what the great poets tell us over and over. That is my consolation at the present as I grieve the loss of that avid miraculous little soul, Buster, and what all lovers of poetry know. Which is not to say we are a miserable bunch. Quite the contrary. We are courageous and ever-hopeful or we would not do what we do.


Candice said...

Poetry and wine were made for mourning. I'm sorry for your loss.

Conversely, I'm happy to hear your friend is doing so well.

Justin Lowe said...

Thankyou Candice.