“Would you ever want to go back and visit West Africa, where you grew up?” He asked me between delicious bites of heaping pancakes sitting between us.
“No, I don’t think so. I remember it like a child remembers, with imagination and optimism. Nothing would be the same. The streets have changed by now I’m sure, the villages, markets. Even the people are likely gone. No, I want to remember it the way I do now.” I replied solemnly.
“You’re very much afraid of loss, aren’t you?” Came his swift, but gentle reply.
“Am I?” I faintly whispered across the table back.
“It’s understandable. You’ve lost something quite precious recently.”
I had never felt so transparent as I did at that moment. By most accounts I have yet to experience any true loss in my life. Statistically speaking, most of life would seem to lie ahead of me, yet I have lived more in my short 22 years that perhaps some ever will. Just when I think I’m getting good at living, such moments remind me I am really nowhere.
When I was 21 my best friend died suddenly after being diagnosed with cancer just 8 short weeks earlier. I was a college senior commuting 6 hours one-way every weekend to visit her in the hospital, while somehow struggling through the course loads my final semester on campus was requiring. I lived in a foggy haze with limitless questions that my once-omnipotent God was not answering. I lost my friend without time to navigate through those questions. It is only now that I realize – that with it, I lost my faith as well.
There are many emotions and questions that death manages to bring to the surface, but my fear is greater than existential. The very nature by which I live projects that I am certain what I have will one day be swept away. I cling to memories more than most. I write feverishly of my experiences, often journal like a chain-smoker, and summon to the surface even the most painful of memories for no other reason than to prove I still can.
I took a sip of the orange juice in front of me in silent contemplation, wondering when it was exactly that I first began living in such fear. When is it that babies first experience a nightmare, first feel the pain of loneliness from a missing parent, or are first denied a hug or kiss? I want more for my children, though they are still nameless. Loss is a very real part of the human condition, but surely fear is a created response to uncertainty. Of this and only this am I absolutely certain: there is no reason to fear.
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