The Beauty In Loss
originally posted on my old host on December 7, 2018
I wasn't seeking a video of George W. Bush (hereinafter referred to as “W”) giving a eulogy to his father. It just happened to be on the frontpage of YouTube. When I started the video, I wondered whether I'd end up watching all 12+ minutes. But W pulled me in right off the bat when he said, “The idea is to die young as late as possible.”
They always say to start with a good joke, W, and you did good. Real good.
W's love and admiration for his father was obvious as he painted a picture of the 41st American president as he knew him. W described a man of character. A man who loved his family. A man who didn't shy away from his responsibilities. And then, at the end, when he gave one last praise by saying that George H. W. Bush was the best father a son or daughter could ask for, W choked up. I choked up too.
This is the stuff that life is made of, man. Moments like this are precious and to be appreciated.
Anyone who's ever experienced a significant loss understands the pain that W was feeling and will continue to feel as he lives on without his parents. But as I continue thinking about W's eulogy, I focus on the beauty we were all exposed to. Who knows how long it took W to write that eulogy. Maybe he'd already started brainstorming it when he realized his father might pass away soon. Or he may have found himself instantly inspired after his father's death and able to craft his words in only an hour or two. Regardless of how long the eulogy took to write, that precious moment in time was over 70 years in the making. (If you're confused about why I say 70 years, W is 72 years old.)
70 years of love and guidance. 70 years of family and shared experience. 70 years of being a son, always looking up to the most important man in his life. For every story or anecdote that W told, there are thousands more we'll never hear about. And now with the death of his father shortly after the death of his mother, a man's earliest pillars of strength and support are gone.
W's eulogy is a reminder of why we hurt when someone important dies: We miss them because of the love that they gave while they were in our lives, as W touched on toward the end of his speech:
So through our tears, let us know the blessings of knowing and loving you, a great a noble man.
Despite the tears from loss, there's plenty reason to be happy. We don't cry when we lose people who mean nothing to us. And if people don't mean anything to us, then their absence isn't really a loss. Our days go on unaffected, in the same style as all the days before. But when someone important to us is gone, we notice. We have no choice but to notice.
The pain from grief is a by-product of love. And love is the catalyst, because without love, the loss really wouldn't hurt that much. This is something that Nick Cave told us earlier this year when he responded to a fan who asked how he and his wife are dealing with the loss of their son. Cave's response was pure poetry and full of humanity, but this part sums up Cave's message:
It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable.
As I realize the validity of Cave's message through my own lens, I become more comfortable with my own grief. Though it may seem a bit crazy, as I stop fighting the inevitability of the pain, the pain becomes less painful. It's still there. It still hurts. But it's not as bad as it once was.
Some people feel that abstaining from love is a great defense from this inevitable pain. But in his song “Chaos and Clothes”, Jason Isbell points out why to do so is a formula for another disaster:
You say love is hell But it's the ghost of love That's made you such a mess Oh yes
When I hear someone say that love is pointless or a waste of time, I never see the person say it with a smile. While love will ultimately lead to pain of some sort, to live without love hurts far worse. So we can't try to run from the pain. Instead, we're better off loving to our full capacity so that the eventual pain is definitely worth it. We need to make sure we're getting our money's worth.
I admire W for his poise in delivering his eulogy. Afterward I found myself thinking about my mother's funeral and wishing that I had given a eulogy myself rather than having someone else read my words. She was my mother, and the resulting pain and love from her life and death were my own, so I should have been the one to send her off. While I can give myself compassion and admit that I was having difficulty navigating a painful and unusual situation, I can still regret the result.
Though I'm not ill and have no reason to think that my run will end anytime too soon, I have no idea when my days on this earth will be numbered. But I do hope that someone will eulogize me as W did for his father whenever my own end comes. Some may think that sounds vain, but I don't really care. Because I plan to earn that honor.
Some people will say that they don't want others to be sad at their funerals. I used to share this sentiment. But now my tune has changed. While I don't want anyone to be devastated beyond the point of being able to function, I do want people to miss me. I do want my absence to be noticed. That's how you know someone made a difference and had an impact. So of course, I want people to miss me, because that will have meant that I did things that mattered.
But when people do move on without me, I hope they're able to do so by following my example. That's how we live on after our deaths, after all. We live on through those who still carry us with them. Through those we touched and influenced.
When I was younger, I wanted to do something that would make me matter to the world. And now I just want to be part of the world to those who matter to me. Because I think that's maybe the only way all of this—everything in this life—matters at all.