Lighting a Fire for Heat Means Losing the Tree

I’ve been thinking a lot about losses lately.

Not because of a melancholy mood, but because of a class I am taking this semester:  The Philosophy of Death and Dying.   Focusing on death is not the crux of this class.  On the contrary, our professor wants us to see this as a life course and an opportunity for us to learn how to live our lives honestly, lovingly, with open communication, and in such a way that when we do depart, the wake of regret and sorrow might be lessened.  When she told us on the first night of class that she had designed the class to not be academically challenging, I should have seen it coming.

Something about the timing of this class doesn’t sit right with me.  It is the spring semester, and instinctively I think of spring as a time of re-birth and renewal as opposed to fading and dying.  The garden starts to awaken with chives and Egyptian onions.  The crocuses seem to forget, one more time, that if they show themselves too early, they will be snowed upon, but for a few days my gardens show bright with these spunky purple bulbs, the blossoms of which remind me of a cordial glass, waiting to be filled with gentle spring showers.

This spring, however, it seems that I have been asked to return to the dark corners of my life and examine loss, how I have wasted precious time by indulging in anger, moodiness, selfishness, procrastination, and self-pity.  It feels like a patch of rough burlap has been stitched to the inside of my shirt.  It chafes, and it hurts, and the only way to rid myself of these discomforts is to find it and carefully remove it without ruining the fabric by trying to tear it out too quickly.

Our text for this course is “On Death and Dying”, by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and it has been an enlightening read, but years and years ago, TT introduced me to “How to Survive the Loss of  Love”, and I have sobbed my way through that book more than once.  At one time we bought all the copies we could find to share with friends who were in the middle of loss and its ensuing befuddlement.  Seems to me we went through them rather quickly.

Losses can be cleverly disguised.  I think about the surprises people face when they retire from a long career, or the empty feeling that might surface once a project is completed, especially if it was a difficult one, or one that required a lot of time.  What about weight loss, even?  Even though it is a positive loss if carefully crafted and not due to illness, it is a loss.  Where’d that former person go – poof!  They are no longer with us, and a new, unfamiliar form has taken their place and assumed their name.  Buyer’s remorse?  Is that a form of grief?  Lighting a fire for heat means losing the tree.  The last bite of a delicious meal means there is no more, and the loss of that fleeting delight.  Can we talk about this?

I’d love to know what you think, because, well…I’m at a loss.



  1. Sloan said,

    March 14, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Dear Andrea,

    I love your thoughts about this on so many levels. I too, always associate Spring with the lighter and more renewing cycles, but, this Spring is proving to be a challenge. I am not sure if you know that I lost my mom about 10 years ago. I went through a spell during which Josh and I cared for several people who died. Their deaths were all in the Fall or Winter and there seemed to be a naturalness to the season and the events that brought some comfort. This Spring however has been very challenging with the illness and anticipated passing of my step-grandmother. Josh is particularly close to her and has spent the better part of the last two months in Florida caring for her. Her illness in Spring has really thrown off my usual pattern of dealing with grief. I can attest to some of the same emotions that you are feeling and the burlap is the perfect analogy!

    I also wanted to tell you that I admire your courage in asking about the connection between loss and weight loss. I finally realized about two years ago that I am very saddled with the inability to lose weight in proximity to any event involving loss. I was, at first very hard on myself about it and told myself that I needed to be tougher and plow right through it and keep losing weight even in the face of loss. That, ultimately I would be healthier and happier for it and that I really just needed to get on with things. My body however had a different lesson for me. I really am having to come to terms with the inability to lose any more of myself and for a period of time I have to be at peace with that. I am all for conquering the fear and getting over it, but for the foreseeable future it just means getting through it. I am physically and emotionally unable to selectively chose to lose anything else. I can cope with what the universe tosses at me, but I have lost the ability to “give up” any more of my physical self.

    Thank you so much for asking these questions. I have been thinking about this so much lately, but have never known anyone with whom I could talk about it.

    Many big hugs and a huge hope for your burlap to come out gently!

  2. dedennigan said,

    March 15, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    This was such a beautiful post. “It feels like a patch of rough burlap has been stitched to the inside of my shirt.” Yes, that is how it feels. Though sometimes I like that chafing, to remind me I’m alive maybe?
    My daughter is about to turn three, which is wonderful, but I am so upset about her birthday. I can’t believe I’ve lost those baby years forever.

    • Andrea Twombly said,

      March 15, 2010 at 9:26 pm

      Thank you, Darcie. I have an inkling as to how you might be feeling about your daughter no longer being a baby. Savor every minute you can get with her. I used to remind JT every year on the night before her birthday that this would be her last day to be 2,3, and well, she’s 22 now, and I’m in the habit…and I still can’t say it without a lump in my throat.

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