“Loss” could easily be a synonym for aging. Aging as I have now done into my seventies is really a form of privilege that so many do not get to experience. Before expounding on the many different losses, one experiences with advancing age, let me acknowledge that loss comes with life across the span of decades. There is an old bromide that states getting “old is not for sissies”. Being a life-long sissy, I am not sure where that leaves me. It would be great if it meant that sissies don’t age but let me attest to the fact that we do age too.
Many folks not just the aging experience different forms of loss throughout their lives and I do not mean in any way to diminish the pain and often suffering that accompanies many of life’s curve balls by just talking about my age-related losses. In my own life, I have a brother who was permanently blinded in an auto accident back in 1985 and had a sister killed by a drunk driver in 1983 when she was just 18. My personal losses are rather trivial in comparison. One example in my own personal life might be the loss of my loving companion, David Woodyard, from AIDS-related issues back in 1995. That was and remains today a tremendous loss. At that time, I was a few years into a Buddhist practice that I still at least dabble into this day. I would love to say that my Buddhist practice has resulted in my being able to accept and handle loss better with less anguish but that is not the case. I realize that I do have the option of how I choose to react to any specific loss and that the amount of suffering I then experience is tempered by this reaction. There is however a very fundamental difference between reacting to the death of a loved one as compared to being sad about fading sexual libido.
A pretty good case can be made that the worst form of loss is death, particularly the death of those close to us. Entire religious belief systems have been created to deal with the stark finality of it. The unwillingness to accept that this loss is permanent is addressed with faith in a belief system that says there is an afterlife where we will be united with our loved ones. For most of my adult life, I have been an avowed atheist, so this sort of religious worldview doesn’t really work for me very well.
For those who have been to my home, you have seen my walls are plastered with photos of the many people in my life. Sadly, as the years pass more and more of those pictured have died. I am though able to somewhat assuage the pain of their loss with fond memories triggered by their usually smiling faces in the photos. Though I firmly believe I will not be reunited with any of them in heaven their picture does keep them in my memory while I am alive.
Not to sound like too much of an old foggy I do miss taking photos with a camera with film in it that was then taken to be developed and real photos returned that easily lend themselves to being framed. I do have lots of photos on my phone and many also on my computer but getting these printed and framed involves several more steps than just picking up the real thing from the developer.
I would be remiss when writing about loss for this piece without acknowledging the nearly 10, and maybe more, individuals I believe we have lost from this Story Telling Group. The group has been in existence now for at least a dozen years and all those who have died were in their often-unique ways major contributors to the group. Most recently this past week saw the passing of Shari Wilkins a woman with a rich history with The Center’s SAGE efforts including being the director of our SAGE activities. Several years back Shari gave me a blank journaling book as a gift that I think she thought might encourage me to write my memoir. I keep it near me here at my computer but unfortunately, it remains blank. In part, this is related to my being quite lazy when I think this would entail writing in cursive rather than my clumsy hunt and peck computer typing. I do hope though to begin writing in it soon and not have it become another personal loss in a long string of the unfulfilled. So often regrets we have at the end of life involve losses of one sort or another.