By Jim Mosher
There is a majesty in death, whatever its manner. Our shared grief cannot be captured in a moment.
Death shall have no dominion nor should we accept a death as anything but our common inheritance.
The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, though he died a broken drunk at an early age, wrote well of our signal ambiguities.
We have refused to own the deaths of those we love. We are cloistered by layers laid down by others — at the scene, in the hospitals we travel to assuage our grief and address our selfish
needs, at the cemeteries where people we do not know labour to make it all just right.
James Joyce, the greatest writer this world has known, wrote in The Dubliners about the ownership of death. Women — usually, women — would lay out the dead; see them; clean them; perhaps care about them. We are now distanced from the special and life-giving enormity death brings.
We should embrace death as much as we embrace life.
‘Community’ is a word tailor-made for sycophants and charlatans; it has about as much value as a three-dollar bill. Or so the most ardent pessimists may think.
I have a better understanding of ‘community’. It took a hammer to bring it home to where I live — where my soul resides. This place, this community.
My niece and her good friend died earlier this month [August 2012] in a house fire in Winnipeg Beach. They were 21.
I was brought to my knees. A staggering disbelief took hold. There was nowhere to turn but the bosom of family and friends.
I found, however, that there would be great strength in a wider ‘community’ I may have neglected.
The kindness and warmth of people who know me only by my writing burst forth — a sort of supernova of love and understanding: a strange compassion from a wider world I should have known.
I received e-mails from people I know well and from others I know little. Simple notes of condolence, but heartfelt — and soul-fixing.
There is a ‘community’ that is wider than the sky, brighter than the brightest sunshine. A ‘community’ that nurtures and cares about its own. It affirms my once-shallow belief in my duty as a ‘community’ newspaper person.
It has renewed my passion for the Interlake.
I was inconsolable. I was paralyzed.
The kindness and caring of others changed that in a fundamental way. I am new. Again.
Lisa, my beautiful niece, my Little One, taught me more than I can say. The wisdom of her life has touched my soul. It is given context in the fuller picture of ‘community’.
My hope is that I can be a better person. Little One loved life. (She called me ‘My Uncle’.) I remember with great fondness her vibrancy: her love of all creatures.
When she was a wee one, she gamboled about my mother’s backyard — in search of that elusive life we too often ignore.
“Uncle Jim, look,” she said at just four years of age. “It’s a dragonfly. Isn’t it beautiful?”
She gently held the complex thing, fascinated by its wings, its face, its being. The morning of her death, she visited her mother, my sister. Amanda and I were in my van — stricken by a grief that surpasses all understanding.
A dragonfly lit upon Amanda’s knee. My sister cried.
It was a shadow of a deeper life we so studiously avoid. A glimpse of a greater life we crowd out with our dreams of possession and success.
There are many stories that should have been written during my absence in this editor’s chair — my perch of reason and, lately, despair. I apologize to the principals for not having written their stories. I will, however; though in a new context — with an insight I did not think I possessed.
Thank you, Little One.
(This piece originally appeared in the Aug. 22, 2012 edition of the Interlake Enterprise.)