Reintroducing Ourselves to Permanence – Again and Again

2017 May 19


The permanence of loss takes a lifetime to reconcile.   It’s far too overwhelming to appreciate what permanence really means at any one point in time.   Maybe that’s why permanence reintroduces itself to us again and again throughout our lives.

Permanence, I know you well by now, so many of us do, but you still surprise me, especially . . .

On Holidays. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Birthdays. Anniversaries.  Hello again, permanence—at least I expected you on these days of celebration.  I planned for you.  You planned for me.  These wonderful holidays are defined by being in the company of those we love.  Permanence, you are so overwhelming because you introduce yourself through absence—in the darkened corners of what we feel but don’t know how to make known to others.  No Hallmark cards are written for the people we love who aren’t physically present because we’re supposed to send our cards somewhere.  We’re supposed to address our letters to someone. We’re supposed to make dinner and honor someone—who is here.  Permanence, even though I knew you were coming to visit on these very holidays, you still find ways to surprise me.

That’s what makes you so mysterious and haunting.  You’d think I’d be used to your presence on these special days.  But, on these days, when I have to think of you more than I want and in ways I can’t escape—you motivate me to retreat into myself even when I’m in the company of others.  Conversing with myself while I’m talking to others, you are the echo no one else hears—the echo that, on these days in particular, becomes louder than the actual voices around me.

When We See Beyond the Frame.  Others only see the images of people that are neatly represented within the framed borders of pictures.  Permanence, you require us to notice who isn’t in the picture—beyond the framed border of living and dying.  You call us to notice what is and what isn’t. What used to be and what is no longer.  Others only recognize what’s right before them but you always remind us of the white spaces of loss and grief that others don’t seem to notice.

You make us see who isn’t where we thought they would be—the excluded spaces in-between then and now, yesterday and today, lost and found, remembered and forgotten.

Silence is the response you invite even though each day we think about trying to bring our multiple realities into existence for others to verify.  But it’s too easy to become overwhelmed by the burden of introducing our multiple realities to others.  Silence reminds us that you—permanence—are here and everywhere, a constant voice that only we hear.  Those not yet touched by your presence see the world around them in the fluidity of one dimension. Those of us who know you well quickly realize that we are marked by a deep awareness of realities that feel paradoxical—present and absent, included and excluded, contented and yearning, here and there, inside the frame and beyond the frame.

When We Get Caught in Traps of Time.  Grammarians clearly weren’t thinking of you when they created discrete categories of past, present, and future.  Most people categorize their lives into what happened, what is happening, and what might happen, a seductive orientation to time that makes complete sense when there is no reason to defy the laws of grammar.  But permanence, you trip us up all the time because you know that these same categories delude us into believing that what has happened is over and distinct from what is happening and what we believe might happen in the future.

Others mark their time by years with someone. We mark our time by years without someone.  Permanence, we feel overwhelmed in your presence because we know that time doesn’t flow evenly and orderly, but rushes through us and past us and onto us, washing away the boundaries between past, present and future.

Approaching permanence is like looking at the sun—you can’t stare at it straight on.  Yet, it is always reflected in what is said and what is not said and who we see and who we don’t.  In the shadows of our everyday lives, we are constantly forced to reconcile the endless shades of permanence that change us throughout the course of a day in ways that disappear as quickly as they appear.

Permanence, if anything, you remind us—whether we want the reminder or not—that you refract our attention and understanding in ways that makes us question what is real and what isn’t.

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