Yesterday, I talked about some of the feelings surrounding death and loss. Actually, I talked about one feeling, shock, or as we can also call it, "WTF?". Some of the way through writing that, I realized that while I covered shock, I didn't cover guilt. Guilt would have to wait until tomorrow.
My brother was born and has lived all of his life with a degenerative demyelinating disorder. My father takes care of him, and for a decade, he had a woman who helped him as a respite provider. Until one day she started noticing some numbness and lack of function. It was a mystery for a while, but the diagnosis finally came in as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, itself a demyelinating disease. Within two years, she had gone from being healthy to dying.
She was a person who I had known for many years, who I would see several times a year, but not someone who I was extremely close to. But still, the death came as a shock to me.
A couple of days after this happened, I broke my camera. Which was originally Qousqous' camera, which he had mailed me from the Yukon Territory. A summer of bicycling and hiking with the already-worn camera had finally cracked its bevel, and I woke up one morning to realize my camera was gone. Non-functioning. I was pressing the button, but the familiar whir of it turning on was not happening.
Which upset me greatly. And then, I got a dose of meta-upset, because while a person who I had known for years died, I took it in relative stride, while the destruction of a camera that was half-broke when I got it made me feel very morose.
This time, it was broccoli. The week after Grundoon's passing, I decided to transfer the broccoli that had been growing on my kitchen windowsill through March outside. Broccoli is a hardy crop, and should be able to survive in Montana in early April quite well. So I transferred my seedlings outside. The next day, it snowed two inches, which didn't hurt them, but then the day after that, there was a heavy frost that they didn't. And that made me very mad. And guilty. And made me feel stupid: it was the last heavy frost of the year, and if I could have waited three days, the healthy springy growing broccoli could have grown to its natural conclusion.
Oh, and then I obviously felt guilty for feeling bad about my broccoli dying when a human being had died earlier that week. Broccoli seeds aren't exactly a scarce or rare thing.
Well, there are two points to what I am saying here. One, is that when dealing with death, our mind will often pick something else to think about. The idea that a human consciousness that was once active in our world is no longer active is a very difficult thing to deal with. That a camera that was working one day isn't now is something we can imagine. That our bright green broccoli is now withered is something we can imagine.
The second point is that in all my experiences with death, I have found myself thinking of seemingly trivial things. Being upset about bad things, or cheerful about good things. I should be feeling grief, but I am also happy that Safeway has the pre-sliced Gouda cheese on sale! And then I feel guilty for being so concerned with such minor things when the entire gigantic issue of death is staring me in the face.
And...well, I don't know what to say about either one of these things. Along with the shock and unreality of death, the misplacing of our mind's focus and the feeling that we are just being silly and pointless in our concerns next to the gigantic things we should be concerned with is not rare. Guilt, sometimes called Survivor's Guilt, is something that many of us seem to go through in these situations.