People always ask me where it is that I go when I disappear for seven or eight months at a time. It’s not a house in the Hamptons. I’m not off saving Africa from poverty and disease. I’m still right here. I’m just unplugged from the rest of the world and keeping to myself. I got addicted to the silence some years ago. When you are constantly connected to everyone you’ve ever met you are subject to carrying the weight of all of their problems, judgements, mistakes, birthdays, and worst of all their grief. Nothing makes me feel like another species entirely quite like death does.
I feel very fortunate that I have a completely different vantage point when it comes to death. One of my symptoms is that I do not form healthy emotional bonds with people, places, and things. I also do not see death as a negative thing for the person it happens to, only those who are left behind. The only thing I am guilty of just like everyone else is that I initially internalize it. That’s something that everyone does no matter how hard they might try not to. I may not be able to form the bonds, but I still absolutely hate seeing bad things happen to people that I actually like. There are so few of them after all. Worse still is the powerlessness to help them in any way.
I’ve said it a million times before, and I will say it a million more. When someone dies the living are stuck paying the tab. All of the good, bad, and ugly that the two of you shared together is now yours to pay for. It’s a bill you can’t lie to yourself about the size of. You can’t skip out on it. You’re paying it. Sometimes the enormity of that cost can alter the rest of a person’s life. They are never quite the same after that. I’ve seen it in my own family, and I’ve noticed one common thread that I think can help prevent it. From the outside looking in, it seems quite obvious. For those going through it, they always seem oblivious.
People say sorry for your loss when someone close to you passes away. They try to fill the air with whatever hope they can muster, and when that fails most fall back on bible verses, or start yammering about better places. Nobody ever says that they are sorry for your gain. It’s the gain that destroys people in the mourning process. If you don’t manage it properly it’ll eat you alive. What do I mean by gain? When you pour time, energy, emotion, and love in to a person that is suddenly no longer there, you gain all of that back. It was an investment of yourself in to someone else. What they take with them is your loss. All those future payments are your gain.
It has got to go somewhere. You see foundations started to prevent whatever it is that took the person from them as these odd crusades to get revenge on inanimate things. Most of the good things we do as a society were started by people who took their gains and ran with them in order to help people in the name of the lost. Just as often you’ll see someone spiral out in the other extreme with self destruction, putting that energy in to anyone who will take it, and causing other pain to hopefully detract from the consistent pain they feel from the source that’ll never exhaust it’s resources. The way you choose to redistribute yourself determines just how good or bad your road ahead will be. There is a third group. The worst one.
When the man I was named after passed away I’d never seen anything quite like it. The impact it had on his children was mind boggling to me. I never saw my dad again. I still haven’t. It burned through his twin so thoroughly that he eventually took his own life. There were other factors, but most of those were due to bad decisions in where he decided to reinvest himself. My father never reinvested. He kept himself. This isn’t the type of currency that accumulates. It isn’t worth more as you go along. It’s actually time itself. You just lose it. Once you feel it’s numbing power you stop investing in other people. You pull back when you should speak up. If you do that enough times, you’re going to find yourself in rare company. You’re going to be an outsider with me.
Thoughts and prayers aren’t going to help you. The food your friends bring will be the only real comfort initially. After that food is gone you are just left with people trying to avoid you for a while, and nobody willing to treat like normal so that you can regain some semblance of it. Time will iron that out eventually too. There was one specific person that I couldn’t help this weekend that inspired me to write about this, but there are countless others who have lost key people in their lives recently that could stand to hear this cautionary tale. Do good, do bad, just don’t do nothing. There will come a day when you are no longer responsible to pay these bills, and I believe it will be the greatest day of your life. The one you love just had that day. Take it from an outsider, bitter days are the only ones that ever end with sweet release.