in Grief

The Necessity of Keeping On

I have been thinking lately about the necessity of keeping on. “Keep on keeping on,” is the advice expressed in an old idiom.

Truth is, most days I do not feel like keeping on. Most days I would prefer to give up, to quit, to stop pretending that I care because, in fact, I do not care.

I credit my Yankee roots with keeping me going this long. I am descended from Yankee stock, with ancestors who were so stubborn they did not know how to quit. Stubbornness may, at least on occasion, be a virtue.

Death is always cruel for it robs us of what could have been, what should have been. A death that comes too soon is particularly cruel, because there is so much left undone, so much left to finish. For those who are left behind, particularly when it comes too soon, everything that follows is but a haunting shell of what should have been. Nothing is ever again the same, nor could it be.

I used to have a “bucket list.” There were dreams, hopes, plans, aspirations – but none of them were mine alone. The future was to be shared. These things that once seemed important, things that once seemed to matter, have faded to irrelevance. Former dreams, once vivid and bright, are but distant shadows better left in the fog of forgotten memories. Finally buying an RV to travel the rest of the county a bit slower? Hollow, depressing, and lonely. Building a house of my own, with my own hands, exactly as I want it? Meaningless and lonely. Being recognized with awards for outstanding work? Empty, shallow, and anticlimactic. Traveling to Africa to invest in the lives of other people and, perchance, to change the world in some small way? A hollow reminder of what should have been. When the person with whom you shared all of your dreams is suddenly gone, no dreams remain.

Small things, tiny sparks of life, sometimes mercifully cross my path, yet their flicker is brief. The most reliable for me comes in the form of another little life, a granddaughter, who, with a dimpled smile, leaves me incapable of not joining her in a broad smile. And so it goes as I find myself looking for a dimpled smile, a pleasant breeze, a soothing sound, any little spark of life to remind me that I yet live despite feeling quite dead.

And so, at least for now, I keep on keeping on, if mostly because I know not what else to do.