48 essays by Elizabeth Shé

Posts Tagged ‘loss’

Essay #34: security

In Love on October 31, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I never thought it was necessary – security. I thought it was a mirage, an impossibility. Amused and bemused when others thought it possible with locks and alarms and stocks and bonds.

I was wrong.

Here are some definitions, courtesy of msWord:

  • the state or feeling of being safe and protected
  • freedom from worries of loss
  • the assurance that something of value will not be taken away

Before I was five, I lost everything: my brother died, my father moved away, my mother turned into someone I didn’t recognize. We lived in a new city, I went to a new school. I never knew, when I came home from kindergarten, whether my mother would be alive. Enduring a difficult pregnancy, she was supposed to stay in bed. The doctor said she might die if she didn’t.

My routine, then: go to school, paint a picture; go home, check on Mom, show her the magic painting. I believed I could paint her back to health. I believed I could paint her back to happy. (She remembers pictures of happy mothers, but the one I remember was lines of color, disappearing into a square-shaped infinity. Her friend thought I was a genius, painting perspective at age five, but maybe I just liked color and shape.)

Constant fear of death is exhausting for a five-year-old. And a ten-year-old, a thirty-year-old. 44 years of fear. Corrosive.

I did not build good structures for my tomatoes this year. They grew bigger and faster than I anticipated. I kept adding on strips of wood, trying to support them. They produced gorgeous fruit anyway, but it could’ve been easier. Maybe the tomatoes didn’t care.

I do, though. I am tired of swinging free in the breeze, battered by storms and scared of crashing trees. How can I flourish if I don’t feel safe? supported? secure?

My new rain boots came in the mail today. Sturdy, waterproof, red. Good for slippery trails and muddy puddles. Protection for high-arched, hard-working, dancing feet.

Happy Hallowe’en. Be safe.

Essay #1: accent on E

In Love on March 7, 2011 at 1:24 am

Today marks the 48th anniversary of my birth. To celebrate these years on the planet, I plan to post 48 personal essays here, one every Monday. Why?

A few years ago, my best friend died.

Again.

The first time it happened, I was 4 and he was my brother John.

The second time, I was 44 and he was my dog Emmett.

Both young males, both had cancer, both loved me unconditionally and unceasingly.

The second loss brought up the first one in extraordinarily painful, but ultimately healing, ways.

Flash back to New Year’s Eve 2007
I am in an examining room, with the door closed.
Veterinary staff are trying to resuscitate Emmett, on a table in another room. I can hear them, but I can’t see them.
I am on my knees, praying.
Love pours through me and out the closed door toward him.
It’s huge, this love, and effortless.

My friend Dinah arrives and I grab her hand, hard.
The vet comes in, says, “We’ve been working on him for half an hour.”
I understand this to mean that he has left his body for good.

I follow her out the door. Turns out, he’s been facing me the entire time. We’ve been facing each other, through the closed door.

As soon as I see him, I know he’s gone. I nod to the vet tech and she stops CPR. She’s crying, too.

I pet his gorgeous black malamute fur, his huge plumy tail.
“Thank you,” I tell him. “I love you. I’m sorry.”
Over and over:
Thank you.
I love you.
I’m sorry.

These are crucial phrases. They can get you a long way in various situations. Perhaps we should memorize them in a few different languages:
Gracias. Te amo. Lo siento.
Merci. Je t’aime. Je suis désolé.
Grazie. Ti amo. Mi dispiace.
Danke. Ich liebe dich. Es tut mir leid.

Sting sings, “Love is a big fat river in flood.”

My heart broke open that day. When I focused all my loving on Emmett, wringing every ounce from every cell of my body, I unknowingly let the big fat river of love break its banks and forge a wide-ass channel. I can’t even see the other shore. Could be an ocean, for all I know.

With Emmett as my focus — my Buddha, my Jesus — I discovered that I am swimming in love. We all are.

Emmett’s secret name was joy.
I finally realized that mine is, too.

Thanks for reading.