Issue #106 / July 2020

I lost someone in the last year. It’s unknown and unspoken territory to me. I thought it was fine. I thought it was fine. It was a gentle passing. Now shapes and echoes resound. I feel a presence that comes and goes – a comforting presence, gentle and protective.
I don’t understand it. I don’t believe in a god that sits above. I feel a presence in all things – something mysterious and miraculous. Sometimes I gaze gently at birds and trees and am deeply moved by the life that hums in them. For I love birds and trees especially the sparrows and tall trees with wide branches.
It’s strange to feel so connected and yet have a feeling of being so disconnected. At times I’m fine – more than fine as they are here and I forget I lost them and my memories hold the space of all things we shared. My question is I don’t know how to understand the experience of loss. It’s not something I could negotiate with. I hope this makes some sense.


Dear Rose,

I have printed your letter in full as it describes very beautifully the experience of inhabiting the uncanny and disorientating realm of loss. Thank you for taking such care with it.

The paradoxical effect of losing a loved one is that their sudden absence can become a feverish comment on that which remains. That which remains rises in time from the dark with a burning physicality — a luminous super-presence — as we acquaint ourselves with this new and different world. In loss things – both animate and inanimate – take on an added intensity and meaning.

I love your line —
‘Sometimes I gaze gently at birds and trees and am deeply moved by the life that hums in them.’

I think this feeling you describe, of alertness to the inner-spirit of things — this humming — comes from a hard-earned understanding of the impermanence of things and, indeed, our own impermanence. This lesson ultimately animates and illuminates our lives. We become witnesses to the thrilling emergency of the present — a series of exquisite and burning moments, each extinguished as the next arises. These magical moments are the bright jewels of loss to which we cling. They are your ‘sparrows and tall trees with wide branches.’

For there is, of course, another side where we lose our resolve — we drop our guard, or just grow tired and descend into that other, darker, less-lovely world, as we disconnect and retreat deep into ourselves.

Rose, these revolving feelings of connection and disconnection you describe so well are the opposing forces of loss that define our lived experience. Letters like yours make a great difference because many of us inhabit this uncanny realm of loss — and all of us will find our way there in time.

Love, Nick


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