This is an excerpt from Standing on One Leg by Neal Raisman available from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Loss is not always the screaming in the halls of the hospital. Or at the crash. Scene of the crime.
Death is often not dramatic. Not as dramatic as my 26-year-old son lying dead on his bedroom floor. No. It often comes quite away from the living. Quietly. Taking without anyone knowing. Maybe even the victim. Sudden and quiet. No screams. No sudden awareness. Forget angels and choirs. Bright light or tunnels. Just a sudden nothing and quiet to be shattered by another’s sudden loss of breath, or whimper, or life slicing shriek of realization that death came and went. Leaving the living to ponder and grieve.
Would a scream have made me accept Isaac’s death more? Would my scream have made me accept death into my life? Why didn’t I scream? Cry? Or howl? I loved, love my son. On TV and in books, memoirs, people cry out. Roar or at least squeak their pain. I did not though pain roared through every muscle, every nerve every capillary of my body. Pain overloaded my brain and emotions. I could only cringe. Whimper at best.
Can grief be as silent as death itself? Even now, years after walking in on him, I have not roared my pain. Screamed my grief. Shrieked out in tears.
Am I a freak? Or just a bad parent? Did I love Isaac? Enough to cry and scream and rent the air with my pain. If so, why not shriek right the and there? Is there a proper way to react to death?
At Isaac’s funeral, Jonathan, Rabbi Case told of King David. The singer of psalms. Crying out in them. Upon hearing of the death of Absalom he did not shout. Not praises or questions or even pain. With the news of his son’s death boring its way into his brain forever, David ended his fast. He asked for food. To eat! Eating? Is this how to react to a son’s death? Was Solomon an even worse father than I am? A worse mourner at least?
No. He simply said that he did all he could to keep his son alive. Worrying. Praying. Fasting. But not that Absalom were dead, there was nothing he could so. So he ended his fast.
Is that why animals do not appear to mourn? To give life and maintain it .They do what they can while the child is alive. When dead; there is nothing left to do. Is that why I did nothing. Nothing dramatic? Certainly nothing as impressive as Solomon. There was nothing I could do? But yet, am I merely an animal without human ability to protest death?
Am I no more human than the parent of a young gazelle ripped open by a lion pack mourn as the herd stops running and rejoices that it was not me? Does a rabbit’s father cry when a coyote kills one of its offspring? Could Bambi really mourn his father? If so, how long? Do they lose the will to eat and get up each day? Never see that on cable shows. Not discussed by Jack Hanna on Letterman. Do animals grieve? Am I just an animal fooling himself that he is more than that? Are we human animals unique? That we mourn. Forever? And some cry out at death and others become mute.