When I was a little girl, maybe nine or so, growing up in India, my father had brought me a red coat from his first trip to America. It had a velvety black collar and black muffs at the sleeves. I insisted on wearing it to the park, even though my mother did not want me to. A slight show-off, a certain pride in my new possession, I guess, made me obstinate. Well, in the very first week, playing in the park with my brother and our other friends, I left my coat on the bench. Minutes later, it was gone. My first big loss. Do I remember the other coats I’ve had since. No, what I do remember about my lost red coat are my mother’s consoling words, her sari wiping my tears. My grandmother’s bony hands in mine telling me it would be alright; the little extra attention I gained over my brother.
That love given me to cover my loss is what I have never forgotten. I like to believe that a loss stings, but subtly becomes a gain and therefore, should be an expected norm in our lives. Acceptance of this philosophy helps me better cope with any form of loss: loss of money, loss of life, loss of a few connecting neurons in old age. Disappearing photo albums or a wedding ring lost in flooded waters or forest fires. The fall of the stock market, where people have lost their life’s savings, or the realization that my old mother has lost her thinking. Physical, material and emotional loss: all take their toll. A belief that something worthwhile will emerge from that experience sustains me.
I did lose another jacket recently; simply left it behind on a coach line to Chicago. This time my gain, if it be called that, was an amusing look and a shake of the head from my husband of forty-six years.
I lost a friend to breast cancer 14 years ago, a friend I walked with and talked to almost daily. We shared a lot of memories-meaningless nothings- and important meaningful lessons that we faced with our children. Then she died. Thereafter, everybody in our circle of friends got mammograms regularly. I volunteered for a hospice, and the American Cancer Society and like to think that I gave comfort to a few terminally ill people, even brought smiles to their faces.
The maple changes color in the fall. Leaves curl over on dry soil, branches are bare. It feels like a sad season, except when I stop to admire the yellow, orange, brown and flaming red of fall colors. I expectantly think of the serenity of snow and new life beginning in spring. A circle of losses and gains.
I think of my mother who is now a great-grandmother to my nephew’s premature twins. The infants grow bigger and stronger as she fades away- happy season, a sad season.
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