Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Have You Lost Something?

I don’t want to get too serious but since another of Jordan’s friends died this weekend, and so I have been thinking a great deal about loss. Is there any greater loss than the loss of a child? I think not. We were most fortunate in our extended family because while there were lots of births, there were hardly any losses of children. In fact, when my Aunt Frieda died, (she was a daughter by choice not birth) the sisters didn’t tell my grandmother because they thought she would be too upset. They just kept saying Frieda was busy and couldn’t get to NJ. My grandmother knew they were lying and told them that she knew something was up, because if Frieda were alive she would make it a point to visit. Aunt Frieda was the only child Grandma burie, and she didn't really know that Frieda was dead. My grandmother died before any of her other children. My Aunt Fritzie was the first to go. She died in 1980. Uncle Jack died soon after. David remembers that Uncle Jack died before Aunt Sarah, because Aunt Sarah was yelling “Jack, you can’t be dead!” until they lowered him into the ground. David had never seen anything like it so it remains vivid in his memory.

This was actually better behavior than when my Grandfather died. At his funeral my Aunt Sarah tried to throw herself into the grave. She was prevented from doing this by my Aunt Helene, who grabbed her before the leap, my mother, who held on to Helene, Aunt Peppy, who held onto my mother, and Aunt Fritzie, who pulled the rest of them back. Uncle Jack was too overcome to be a holder on. And Aunt Sophie stood to the side and announced that “if that’s what Sarah wants, we should just let her jump.” When the siblings died (sibling loss was the most painful loss for any of them), the ones who were still breathing just pretended the others were in Florida. I believe I previously blobbed about not going to Florida.

This morning David I were talking about the state of the world and how we hoped that in a few years, when Jordan was ready to take it by storm—the world would still be a place where she could thrive in her chosen profession. Will people still want to go to the theater and be entertained? Or will they consider the stage frivolous and outdated? Too much personal interaction, not a fast or sophisticated enough technology? Now that would be a serious loss. The world at war instead of peace has been a serious loss. I remember years after Jimmy Carter left office, Helen Thomas, a notable and well respected journalist confessed that she may not have liked Carter but she was able to sleep at night because she knew he would do almost anything to avoid a war. I guess the loss of a good night’s sleep is right up on the top of all our lists.

When someone loses a job it can be devastating. I have seldom lost a job because I have seldom had a job. Much of my work has been in political campaigns or as a political appointee, so the end of this work was never a surprise -- because there is always the knowledge that there will be an end. Many people think they will go from a campaign job to a government job if their candidate wins, but there is never a guarantee that there will be a place for you. The end of a campaign is like the end of your life because it is a 24/7 commitment and the people with whom you work become your family. So that loss can be overwhelming. When I left Massachusetts to work in Washington in 1976, I had no job and no place to live so I lived in my Fiat 128 station wagon. It’s funny (not ha ha funny) but once you have lost your home and your family, everything else has minimal impact.

When I think back, the only time I was in a job that I lost, was when I was working as an employment agent for Snelling and Snelling. They fired me because they said I was trying to be a social worker instead of a placement person. The goal was just to find a job for someone — it was not necessary to find something they liked. I lost my job at USA Networks because Barry Diller bought the company. But I resigned before he could fire me. (The new people always fire the senior execs and bring in their own people). Diller ran around the building trying to fire me but he was too late... and was he pissed! It was terrific. And additionally, they had to pay me a large sum of money. So I have never been tossed asunder without finding a place to go-- even if it was elf employment. I always found something else and considered the past good training and a place that I merely made more contacts. But many of my friends have stood on the side of the road and watched the parade march by...and that can be very painful. The worst thing is that with the loss of a job, comes the loss of self confidence and most importantly, an income.

There are so many kinds of loss. Family, friends, work, confidence, lunch, jewelry and hair. Sometimes losses are manageable and you can deal with them easily. Sometimes their impact can be so enormous that they can change the person you are or that you think you want to be. I guess if you think about loss as just a part of ongoing change it becomes a little easier to figure out. And if you remember the more things change, the more they stay the same, you will never have to deal with it at all. Yes I know, that makes very little sense—but what else is new. They don’t pay me the big bucks to figure out complicated life issues. OK they (that would be David) don’t pay me at all. All I know is that loss just hangs out there like some magical song. When it’s over we miss it, but we know we will either find another tune to take its place or we will work tirelessly to find a way to play it again. We’re just sayin... Iris


Anonymous said...

...sorry to hear of your daughters loss...thanks for your perspective and the gentle reminder to appreciate what we have each day...

Walt said...

For some reason I think I'd like to have met both Aunt Sarahs. From their stories, they both seem, how can I put this, well, strong women in their actions.

Especially David's Aunt Sarah!

My wife had an Aunt Sarah. She was amazingly strong for her small bird-like frame.

Perhaps all Sarahs have been this way since Abraham's time having to deal with Hagar!

Even in death, it's all right to find the place to chuckle.

Anonymous said...

This brings me back to my dad's wake 13 years ago..so many people were loudly talking and yelling..I told them if they wanted a party, to go to a bar! To this day, I cannot believe I said that..but grief will do things to you. In addition, you mentioned losing a job because you cared for the people you were trying to help. That's what I like about you both..that you care about humanity..When we lose that, all is lost. I agree with the 'other Walt' in that it's okay to chuckle..I just do not belive those who pass on would want us in misery.

Anonymous said...

Oops! Mistakenly did not sign in a moment ago..

Iris&David said...

Over the years I have learned, from my aunts, that you can always find something funny in even the saddest and most tragic events. My cousins and I have dealt with too many deaths but we were always amazed at our parents ability to laugh even as they mourned. It was a wonderful life lesson. One I hope I can teach my children. Iris

Anonymous said...

Iris and David..I have every confidence you can, and will!