I was born to two people in mourning. One for the loss of a mother, the other the loss of a great friend. They split up when I was no more than three years old, each taking their grief elsewhere, neither one of them being done with it — only with each other. I’ll never understand why they needed to leave each other, but neither will I understand what brought them together. All that matters to me is that my life is a direct consequence of someone’s death.
As an adult I began to realize that neither of my parents ever stopped mourning. I grew up with a drawing of my grandmother, which my dad made in 1979, over my bed. It predated my life by six years, but I couldn’t imagine it existing without me. In fact, when I was too young to know how logistically impossible it would be, I suspected my birth happened immediately after my grandmother died; that her soul or aura just leaped straight into my pre-natal self. I fully integrated my identity into that of my grandmother, a woman whom, let’s not forget, I had never met. It took me years to realize that I might be someone other than the reincarnation of a french-born danish woman who was murdered two years before I was born. But then what else is there to do with adolescent years except wrestle with your identity?
I’ve learned from both of my parents that mourning can’t be rushed; grief can’t be put away just because life beckons you to other responsibilities. It works its way into who you are, dissipating subtly into your identity until finally you can’t recognize yourself without it.
I think all life forms around death, though perhaps more subtly than mine does. And if we consider that all the world is in mourning all the time, how might that change [for the better] the way we relate to one another? As we would stare back and ahead at the same fates, the distance between us in the present would fall away, and all that would be left is that which we have yet to know. Wouldn’t that be something?