Bruce Toews (masterofmusings) wrote,
Bruce Toews

Don't They Know it's the End of the World?

The tenth anniversary of my father's death is rapidly approaching. In many ways, it's very difficult to believe that it's been ten whole years already, and in many others, those ten years seem like a lifetime.

I remember, the day after the funeral, walking through the shopping mall with my sister-in-law. I needed a new cellphone, so she took me to the local Radio Shack (at the time) to get one.

I remember walking through the mall and hearing the chatter of everyone going about their business as if the world hadn't just come to an end. I wanted to scream at them, "What's the matter with you people? My dad's just died and you're acting as though today's an ordinary day with your ordinary problems in your ordinary lives? How can you live with yourselves!?!"

That was my gut instinct, and I'm grateful that I didn't act on it. Of course their worlds hadn't come to an end. Surely if they knew my family, these good people were no doubt sympathetic, empathetic, maybe even saddened at our loss. But many of these same people had no doubt experienced loss before while I went on living my life normally. That's simply how the world works.

When we're beset by a tragedy, it's very easy to think that, just as the world has stopped for us, it must stop for those around us, and if it doesn't, those people are cruel, heartless and uncaring. But it's an unfair accusation, and I'd best not make that accusation, lest it one day be leveled at me when I fail to take on someone's grief as my own.

Paul Harvey once said something to the effect that if he cried every time an event happened worthy of tears, he would be far too busy crying to report the news. I think there's a good point to be made here. The world must go on. We need people to be in a relatively normal frame of mind at all times, or there will be chaos. While we humans are empathetic by nature, we have built-in safeguards preventing us from falling apart every time someone else is grieving, and this is a necessary thing. After Dad died, I needed people who were able to go about their normal business. I was certainly in no condition to do so. It didn't mean that the people carrying on as normal didn't care, though it sure felt like that at times. It just meant that a very important human trait had come into play, a trait exercised constantly by doctors, counselors, and other professionals: the ability to distance ourselves from the grief of others, enough to ensure that the world keeps on moving, enough to pick up the weight for us when we ourselves can not.

I bring this subject up because, as the anniversary of Dad's death approaches, that walk through the shopping mall has replayed itself over and over in my mind, and the profundity of what I learned in that short trek to Radio Shack is still impressing itself on me.

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