I wrote last week about loss.I will continue with that today and try and go beyond it. Loss is inevitable. some loss is more catasrophic than others. The loss of a pet is sad but less of a loss than the death of a child or a partner. (But that statement is, of course, value laden.) Perhaps I should write that for me, the death of my dog will be a sad event. He has enriched my life considerably. The death of my wife, however, will be awful for me-if I outlive her. Should she outlive me, then she has the loss to bear. Neither of us wants this event but we both know that it will happen sometime.
My mother predeceased my father by about eighteen months. He spent as much time as he could in a coma of sorts once she had died. He was present for about half these last months feeling lost and lonely .We visited every couple of weeks but even if he had lived with us, this would not have been enough. The gap left by mother was unfillable. Like other people to whom I have spoken I had to give my father permission to die. Once I had done this he left after a few hours. His purpose in life had been my mother. God and the church mattered; I was important. But his ultimate concern was my mother.
The phrase “ultimate concern” comes from the theologian Paul Tillich who commented “Our ultimate concern is that which determines our being or not-being.” From my own thinking it seems to me that Loss finds out our ultimate Being-ness. Darian Leader in “The New Black” says this, “When Lacan observed that we can only mourn someone of whom we can say ‘I was their lack’, it implies this question of what we were for the Other. Being someone’s lack means that they have projected they own sense of lack on to you: in other words, they love you. We love, after all, those who seem to have something we don’t” When “our lack” is gone , what happens to our purpose? At best we are able to become of value to someone or something else. Children, Grandchildren, hobbies etc. (The danger comes, I suspect, when we are unwilling or unable to allow ourselves to value or be valued by anything other than the Beloved. This is where mourning shades into melancholia; loss into depression.)
I have yet to face what will be my ultimate loss- the death of my wife. I think-although I can in no way prove it- that I could survive a number of lesser losses if necessary. I would not want to lose my job, my home, my friends or my health. All these add richness to my life and I greatly value them. But with my wife i think-hope- that they could be survived. If my wife dies before me, i am not at all certain how I will react. That might be the point at which I, too, find out my ultimate concerns. (If I am still blogging and you are still reading me, I’ll tell you what happens come that day.)