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Today marks the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death, and this day more saliently and painfully echoes many others before it. I could not enumerate the times that I have felt intensely her absence since she passed – awakening from a dream of her, wanting to share a humorous story about my children, wishing to hear her laugh. I emerge from an oneiric conversation, or make a mental note to tell her something the next time she calls, and suddenly, I am once more brought face to face with the reality of her absence. Her death once again washes over me.

Death, particularly of someone as fundamental to one’s identity as a mother, constitutes a tremendous paradox, and plays a continually paradoxical role in our lives. On the one hand, death is an absence – negation, privation, lack, a nothing. As the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus said, ‘Death… the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and when death is come, we are not. It is nothing then, either to the living or the dead…’ For Epicurus, since ‘bad’ and ‘good’ are decided according to our experiential frame of reference, and since ‘death’ entails the dissolution of our frame of reference, it can be neither good or bad; it is, in the truest sense, a nothing.

Strictly speaking, Epicurus might very well be right. But the tricky part lies in the on the other hand part. Death may be an absence, but it is experienced as the absence of a presence, an absence with a face – spectrally manifesting in our dreams, memories, and expectations. While it might be nothing to the dead, it is a nothing that is felt, experienced, endured, by the living. The living forever abide in the experience of that nothing, in the presence of that absence. We cohabitate with that solitude. In Augustine’s reflections on the loss of his mother in Confessions, he describes ‘a fresh wound wrought through the sudden wrench of that most sweet and dear custom of living together.’ Today, the wound is once more fresh. I miss you, Karen Sue. 


 


Comments

12/13/2016 1:38am

No doubt, everybody have much love for their parents but the need is to celebrate their anniversary and it really painfully echoes many others before it. It is good to post this type of article to show their love for their parents and I am glad to visit this article page.

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Who wouldn’t mourn their parents if they die? I haven’t heard anyone who didn’t mourn. Even if they feel bad or mad about them, the sad emotion will still overpower their feelings. I can’t tell the feeling about losing a parent because they both are still alive. But I think I’m not yet ready if they suddenly have to go and leave us, their children. Although I have a family of my own, the thought of losing my own parents makes me feel sad. If we can only live a lifetime, I think everybody is just happy.

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07/13/2017 12:04pm

This brought tears to my eyes. In two months it will be a year since my mom died. I was thirteen, now I'm fourteen. She died from a random heart attack, she was perfectly fine the day before. I miss her so much. This was so deep and inspiring. I am reading it for my whole school. God bless your mum.

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