Even as a child I was terribly conscious of death, of the fragility and temporality of life.  Perhaps that is why I turned first to literature, then philosophy, and then philosophy of religion and mysticism to try and understand the human condition and how others had dealt with what Paul Tillich calls ultimate questions. The most irretrievable loss in death I first experienced was that of the aunt who brought me up (40 years this July 15th), and then, as an adult when my chair, colleague and friend passed away a few years ago in a matter of months of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  The loss of those one loves so profoundly is searing indeed.

This evening I heard devastating news.  A person who has been in my life for 33 years, most intimately connected to my life and to that of my children, has cancer that has metastatized.  I have found it difficult to have any sense of connection to the reality around me since hearing this news; it is as if the axis of the world has shifted and things are horribly out of place.  My children do not know as of yet, and cannot know until he decides it is time to tell them. I called a dear friend, who understands loss only too well, just to try and put my feet on the ground again.  I asked Google to tell me what kinds of prognosis exist for such cancers and google told it as it is:  not much time, not much time at all.  A meteoric shower was supposed to have been visible last night and tonight, and I went outside to look at the heavens and saw all manner of brilliant stars on this cloudless and clear night, but no showers, no sign from heaven that this senseless life has purpose and meaning and joy and order and reliability. It is all flux, all samsara, all in motion, all constantly becoming, no wonder then that the Sanskrit word for world is jagat, that which moves, changeable.

What floods my mind is the loss, the betrayal, the anger, the utter loneliness of bringing up three children on my own, the joy that is always just out of reach, the insane hours, the hard work, the worry whether the children will land on their feet.  For the kids there was distance, but an accessible distance, punctuated by phone calls and visits and Skype-enabled face-to-face chats and trips to Europe and camping trips and trips to Montreal and Québec City.  I can’t bear the impending loss for my children and myself.  This is a life that is precious to me even if the door was shut on me; for the children as they enter adulthood–I cannot even bear to imagine.  They have already experienced the loss of his presence from their early childhood, a loss that is buried so deep in their consciousness that I do not know how they will handle a far more devastating loss.

How on earth does a human being hold things together in the face of such news?  How does one find the grit to wash the dishes, work on essays that are due, on presentations around the corner, on paying bills and the other quotidian activities that must go on?