Posted in Lost in Thought

Those Who Are Still With Us

Weather is suddenly cold… cold in the ‘I don’t want to leave this cosy room and go out into the rest of the less cosy house’ kind of way. The empire-building game I play has a Halloween event running, though I don’t feel ready for Halloween yet.

Mum found out today that one of the locals died violently. We didn’t know him as a friend but have spoken to him a few times. Normally Mum does all the talking but I spoke with him myself some time before the lockdown.

When a bad thing happens, it leaves you with a horrible feeling. There’s a heaviness at the pit of your stomach and you feel terrible for everybody involved. This is something none will ever forget or recover from.

Life is like that for all of us to a degree. At times we meet with deep, cold darkness and have to live with it. One of the worst things is that the people you want to save, speak to or comfort are beyond your reach, and will never be seen again in this world. You always want to go back and pay more attention to the people you’re about to lose, but it’s never possible. We could pay more attention to everybody all the time, but it’s not possible. There’s a reason why we live normally and pass from one thing to the next thing as quickly as we can, as though things will be the same from one day to the next, which they usually are.

I could go off my rocker a bit and say actually there are always losses and the next day is never quite the same as this, because even if there have been no human deaths, some birds will have fallen out of the sky unseen, and a spider that was crawling across your carpet tonight could be a lifeless ball of legs by morning. Weeds die, flowers die, leaves flutter off the trees and shrivel, houseplants given to you by someone you lost most regrettably die… you won’t get them back even while you guiltily wonder if you could have looked after them better. You eat your chocolate bunny and it doesn’t exist any more — there’s another in the drawer but it’s not the same bunny even if it looks like it. The world has never been the same since I ate that marzipan frog in 1986. I always felt I shouldn’t have eaten it, but it would have fallen to dust eventually anyway!

Then there are micro-losses, if you know what I mean… songs are always disappearing because you listen to one for three minutes till it ends, and the next one begins, then that too is gone. Maybe they play over again in your head — they do in mine, but there’s something oddly haunting and non-existent about them, as though they are the lamentations of the dead. You might spend all year listening to The Pachelbel Canon repeatedly, then next year you hardly think about it because you’ve switched to playing something else. Then suddenly you come across it again and wonder why you wasted so much time not listening to it — it’s the most wonderful tune in the world.

Nothing is ever quite the same, which is how things change so imperceptibly that one day we sit up with a shock, realizing we’ve moved so far away from a particular time that we can never get back to it. You feel it as a pain that’s all your own, but we are all going through it all the time, regretting the loss of people, places and things — of eras, seasons and states of being.

Mindfulness advises we should try to stay in the present. That does help bring back a sense of normality and comfort, and stops us brooding, or tries to. I would always come back to a feeling of discomfort, however — wondering what or who I’ve forgotten to pay attention to in my memory. I suppose if we are fully present in the here and now we won’t overwhelm ourselves with a limitless multitude of things we can’t do anything about — instead we can give lots of attention and love to those who are still with us and in our space.


I live in the UK with two cats -- Samson and Delilah.

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