The theme of our current issue is…grief. Here’s what Julian Barnes said about it:
“Early in life, the world divides crudely into those who have had sex and those who haven’t. Later, into those who have known love, and those who haven’t. Later still–at least, if we are lucky (or, on the other hand, unlucky)–it divides into those who have endured grief, and those who haven’t. These divisions are absolute; they are tropics we cross.”
If life is a maturation process, then these are tropics we cross. I could think of another one: parenting. These crossings are into another continent.
And of course, what is grief but the work of memory? Even if sometimes it tries to obliterate it, the weight has only shifted elsewhere.
Julian Barnes had lost his wife, a literary agent, in 2008 to brain tumor. He had married her in 1979.
He said, “It took a while, but I remember the moment–or rather, the suddenly arriving argument–which made it less likely that I would kill myself. I realised that, insofar as she was alive at all, she was alive in my memory. Of course, she remained powerfully in other people’s minds as well; but I was her principal rememberer. If she was anywhere, she was within me, internalized. This was normal–and irrefutable–that I could not kill myself because then I would also be killing her. She would die a second time, my lustrous memories of her fading as the bathwater turned red. So it was, in the end (or, at least, for the time being), simply decided. As was the broader, but related, question: how am I to live? I must live as she would have wanted me to.” (Julian Barnes, Levels of Life, 2013)
Do you have a story about grieving?