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Kaleidoscope of love and loss

February 24th, 2005 · 1 Comment


This week has been intense for me emotionally. First the adrenaline roller coaster ride of participating in a conference, giving it all I’ve got, and receiving other’s responses to what I had shared from my family’s life. Then I came home Sunday night and read of writer Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide. More sorrow came to me in private emails, stories I can’t share here. I’ve found comfort in sunshine and crocuses during a winter week.

Tuesday night after I read Lenn Pryor’s post describing his sister’s death, I sat staring at the screen for a while without words but with tears. I feel sad for Lenn. He’s is a friend I’ve met through the connections of blogging. Our family has spent time with him. Lenn’s transparency and his love of life flow deep and true in his writing. His loss of a sibling, some of the details in his story, and the way he held a funeral for her on his blog, also reminded me of the loss of my brother and the blogposts I’d written for him, described in my talk on Saturday.

Yesterday morning Mitch Ratcliffe’s post helped me make sense of my emotions. Responding to Lenn, he wrote [excerpt]

I’m very sorry, Lenn, to hear about your sister. But I know the birth you’re about to have will be just the end of a beginning of something you will treasure, too.

I’ve been thinking about how to write about the way we are friends and family for a few days.

His last line: Life is a wonder, even if it can all be explained.

Often a life will leave our lives just as a new one is entering. Katherine and her family have had a similiar experience. When my brother died, my first child was 18 months old, and I became pregnant with our second one, despite medical improbability, only a few weeks after his passing.

We live with loss. Yesterday I sorted through boxes marked “Baby”: someone I met is suddenly adopting from a Third World country and needs clothes. Digging through the piles of outfits, examining tiny pairs of pants and shirts, pale pink dresses and small bundled socks, woke memories. The red dress Abigail wore when we propped her up in the sofa corner to take her picture on a summer day in San Jose. Her purple fleece suit that made her look like B—–, or so Ted and I joked to each other. I can still see her infant face and the way she would wiggle in it. The pale green spring outfit Michaela wore posed in the photo with her big sister, her smile in her coat of many colors given to us by a neighbor (who moved away and then returned into our lives), and the gray fleece suit I bought Elisabeth for our Europe trip. All these are moments lost. My girls won’t be babies again. Moments come and go, ephemeral, many of them disappearing without making an explicit mark on our memory. Yet as I note the end of babies in our home and pack the clothes into bags, someone else is beginning a new life with a new little one.

Our lives are circles intersecting, some overlapping more than others. This week I’ve been thinking of those I once knew who are gone, of the slivers of life we shared. We flow in and out of each other’s lives, like water, like dancers, like air in lungs. Yet I am still here, alive for now, and they exist in some sense inside me, in my memories, in the ways we interacted and intersected with each other. To draw a diagram and shade the pieces of life we shared, the now dead and the still living, would create colorful but strange geometry.

We are left with pieces of people, moments of memories that can return with the sight of a sweater or the sound of a song. Life is a collection of these bits, broken and strange-shaped, remnants of intersections, colorful and vivid, love and loss. Life is like a kaleidoscope: each day, every moment, brings another spin, another way to interpret what has happened, to see a pattern or purpose, an explanation in the pile of pieces. Birth and death, beginnings and endings, new and old are juxtaposed against each other in wonderful ways, even as we breathe.


Other posts on loss that have spoken to me recently:

Chip Gibbons lost his cat and realized the little ways he had accommodated his pet.

Beth Grigg described the grief a nursing mother can feel.

Rod Kratchowill wondered where the angels were when his wife died.


Tags: journal

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Nancy // Feb 25, 2005 at 8:44 am

    Julie, I have been working backwards through your blog and have a lot more to read, but I wanted to share something with you on loss, and making sense of loss, that helped me long before I had a blog. It was writing in an online community. I got so many responses from it that I eventually put it on my website here. http://www.fullcirc.com/writing/momchild.htm

    Life isn’t explainable, but sharing our experiences of it has been hugely powerful for me — on the sharing and receiving end.


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