It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. – Eleanor Roosevelt
LIGHTING THE CANDLE
There are days where the sun shines brightly and all is right with the world. In the midst of such revelry, it can be easy to believe this joy will continue forever and none of the difficult, unpleasant things in life can touch us. Some of us have been fortunate to have seen such days while in loving relationships with exceptional people.
Jakob Mackenzie was such a man. It was enough that he lived, but an ordinary life was not sufficient, he must do more. Exceptionally gifted, he gave much more than he took and never tired of reaching forward, driven to do “just one more thing” to make life better and easier for those around him. When he died in 2009 at the age of 54, a light went out in the world and we have all been diminished by his passing.
It was my privilege to spend four years with him, first as a colleague and then in a romantic relationship. The stories and poems which follow have been born out of the friendship we forged, the love we shared, our hopes and dreams for a future that never came, and the grieving I have walked through after learning of his death. It is my hope that in sharing my experiences, others may find strength and comfort in their own dark night of the soul.
It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Sometimes it begins with the loud, grinding screech of metal upon metal careening down the highway of life, never quite sure where everything is going to stop or what condition it will be in when it gets there.
Grief is never pretty. It tears our souls in tender places we cannot protect but desperately wish we could, leaving trails of blood and tears, sometimes seemingly without end. We enter the vortex frantically trying to push the experience away from us, trying to buy any amount of time we can to figure out how to take life back to where it was just minutes ago, totally benumbed, oblivious to the truth that life as we knew it no longer exists and can never be reached again, no matter how much effort we put into it in the time we have left upon this earth.
I did not intend to go on this odyssey when I awoke on 17 August 2009. It had been a difficult year. My elderly mother, an emphysema patient, had entered the final stages of her disease, something we learned quite abruptly when she was hospitalised in early February for what seemed like a routine visit, but very quickly had her fighting for her life. Six months later, we were still badly shaken.
It was an ordinary day, unremarkable in its routine. Late in the afternoon I was doing a periodic check of the Social Security Death Index to see if I could locate the missing brother of a friend. As long as I was there, I thought I might check on a few people I knew who were along in years and might show up on its rolls. As I typed in the name of my former partner’s father, I wondered how old he was and thought back to the last time I had talked to him. He had to be pushing 80 if he was a day.
I got a hit.
“Awwwww!” I thought, feeling sad for him and his family, wondering how they were doing.
In the brief nanosecond it took for the birth date to register, I felt myself falling and heard the screeching of metal being ripped asunder as I went lurching down the emotional landscape of life. Time stood still as complete shock washed over me like a tidal wave. One minute I was dumbstruck, the next I was shaking uncontrollably and screaming. It was not Zee’s father who had died, . . . it was Zee.
OUT OF THE ASHES
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950)
Renascence and Other Poems, 1917