The Exquisiteness of Loss
The movie Star Wars has long been one of my favorite motion pictures. At the age of 12, it captured my imagination as no film before, or since. I loved everything about it, from the action and story line to the special effects and fantasy world created by George Lucas. From moment one, I was hooked. Currently I find elements of this blockbuster becoming more poignant. One in particular is the battle scene between Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader. I can remember the look in Alec Guinness’ eyes, standing before the hulking blackness of Vader, light saber raised, speaking the words “You can’t win Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
In my advanced years (all of 40), I have found a prophetic sort of meaning behind that pivotal line in the Star Wars script. It amazes me how the passing of things, time, events and people only serves to make their influence stronger. It is as if part of the human condition is to long for things that are, in some way, out of reach. It is as if their very distance casts a beauty upon them, invisible to close inspection but radiant when they are separated from us. They become more powerful when situated a long way off.
In the Northern Virginia area, the sun can be downright oppressive. High summer humidity and temperatures often cause us to retreat to shade or indoors altogether. Yet come winter, the North wind blows, the days are short and we rise and go to work or school in the dark. The sun gives us a different light, as if the extra distance hones its power. Things seem a little sharper, a little more in focus. In winter, we long for the days of summer; of extended daylight hours and a more relaxed pace; of warmth and the extra time to get things accomplished. Several other examples of this phenomenon come to mind but the strongest is the recent passing of my mother. I was present when my mother died and it marked me.
I have been in the presence of the dead before, at funerals, wakes and gravesites, but I had never actually watched a person's life force ebb from them. The best way to describe it is to recount one of the closing scenes from the movie Titanic. It is when the main, female character, now much older, stands at the back of the ship and tosses the much prized and sought after necklace into the depths of the sea. Our last image of this creation is its spiral downward into the darkness below. We watch with a sense of loss at the waste and yet we also have a notion that this is truly how things should be, that this exquisite necklace will be better off a memory.
Watching my mother die was very much like watching that necklace sink into the ocean. As she slipped away, I experienced a piercing awareness of grief and sadness and yet, I knew that this was how things were to be. As I had told her, if it was her time to go, nothing we did or did not do would keep her here. But there was also a tremendous sense of joy for I knew where she was going. We had spoken about her belief in Christ and she was sure of her salvation. Our Lord was calling her home! What a delight for her.
She is gone not quite a year and yet I find myself thinking of her more now than ever before. I am sad to admit how little I really knew about my mother. I know of her life only in bits and pieces. Growing up I was too self-centered to really take note of the sacrifices she made. After moving out, I was too busy getting my own act together to truly notice her activities. It was not until after her death that I genuinely saw whom my mother was and how she was touching the lives of others. Like Obi Wan Kenobi, the want of my mother has strangely made her even more compelling. It was as if she was present this past Thanksgiving and I cannot help but wonder what this Christmas will be like. Her absence serves to make the presence of others much more potent and much more important. Like the jeweled necklace and its spiral downward, she points out to us the exquisiteness of loss.