Pain of loss because we love. “Necessary Losses” by Judith Viorst. Poem “The Arms of a Child” (Jan. 2008)

Susan's Thursday morning note January 31, 2008
The Arms of a Child poem by Mary Zachmeyer (LOVE THIS!!)
Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst - pain of loss because we love (all through life - the reality of loss)
Appreciating children & family

Good morning!  It is just almost too cold out to try to get what I have read and thought about to travel through the various nerve systems from my brain to my fingertips!  Just ridiculously cold.  Even my cats are staring at me with wild eyes today.  When the cats get cabin fever we all realize we need to stay out of each other’s way, trying to not even make eye contact!

One night last week I spent applying cold washcloths to Camden’s little head to fight off a fever.  When I stumbled to my computer the next morning there was a beautiful poem that a new friend that receives our letter on Thursdays sent which was just published by St.  Anthony’s Press.  Her name is Mary Zachmeyer and she first wrote me a few weeks ago with the advice – never ever take your children or your family for granted, for she has lost her husband, and also her son too young.  This poem was absolutely beautiful written with love of her grandson.  If you don’t have your own child to picture, or your own grandchild, picture a little one that you have fallen in love with, that you pray for when you lift your eyes to the hills.  If you’d like to send her a note her e-mail is  Congratulations, Mary, on your poem being published!!!

The Arms of a Child   by Mary L Zachmeyer (Central Nebraska Poet)

I try to concentrate
on the latest best seller,
but grandson sleeping in my bed

and so I return to life
back to what is familiar—
a child sleeping quietly—
to a spot which never leaves

that corner of the heart,
the cliché-but-true world
that makes it revolve.

I exist
in the eyes and smile of this child
as he looks up
and the world stops to love.

He lifts his arms to hug
and they fit
better than any pair of gloves—
arms around a child—
the reason God created them.

I was also recommended a book this week called Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst (known to many of us for her children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day).  She states,

…we are utterly powerless to offer ourselves or those we love protection – protection from danger and pain, from the inroads of time, from the coming of age, from the coming of death, protection from the necessary losses.  These losses are part of life – universal, unavoidable, inexorable.  And these losses are necessary because we grow by losing and leaving and letting go.  She discusses that we lose our entire life to gain…  first our loss of our mothers’ protection in youth (when she has to let us try things on our own), loss of the impossible expectations we bring to relationships, loss of being young, loss of loved ones through separation and death.  Here is what I marked in the final chapter where she sums up much of her thinking…

…I’ve learned that in the course of our life we leave and are left and let go of much that we loveLosing is the price we pay for living.  It is also the source of much of our growth and gain.  Making our way from birth to death, we also have to make our way through the pain of giving up and giving up and giving up some portion of what we cherish.  We have to deal with our necessary losses.  For in leaving the blurred-boundary bliss of mother-child oneness, we become a conscious, unique and separate self, exchanging the illusion of absolute shelter and absolute safety for the triumphant anxieties of standing alone.  In giving up our impossible expectations, we become a lovingly connected self, renouncing ideal visions of perfect friendship, marriage, children, family life for the sweet imperfections of all-too-human relationships.  And in confronting the many losses that are brought by time and death, we become a mourning and adapting self, finding at every stage – until we draw our final breath – opportunities for creative transformations…

…As for our losses and gains, we have seen how often they are inextricable mixed.  There is plenty we have to give up in order to grow.  For we cannot deeply love anything without becoming vulnerable to loss.  And we cannot become separate people, responsible people, connected people, reflective people without some losing and leaving and letting go.

As Anne Lindbergh wrote in the preface (years later) of her diary, Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead of the time period in her life where her little toddler was kidnapped and murdered…  “I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches.  If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers.  To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.  All these and other factors combined, if the circumstances are right, can teach and lead to rebirth.”  I had written in the margin last November, “This is hard.”

Oh, we must all continue to take on “life as a mystery” – with open doors.  Not withdraw.  I found the interesting part of the book by Viorst that we usually think of loss as death, but loss is every day.  We must be strong enough in our selves to take on each day.  Wake up each morning and realize as in our poem by Mary, we have such treasures.  We must make the one foot drop to our knees, oh, our help is right there.  Be still.  Be still and know that I am God.  Let us get the strength that is right in our reach.  Look up to the hills (okay, in Nebraska, look up to the clouds!), for our help is from God.  The peace that passes all others’ understanding will never pass away if we let him give it to us.  May you continue to love even though in loving you will lose.  Life is precious.    Now – for me to go to that little whoseit on the couch acting like he’ll die if I send him to school today – we all experience loss (not to say guilt he’s inflicting on me for the mother/child loss he’s acting like I’m killing him with to send him to school – another book, another day!!!)  Go take on your day, make yourself proud.  Stumble in the store – I’ll have the hot drinks ready!!!  (Great place to escape the eyes of those with cabin fever in your home!) (grin!) Susan

Latin for this week: 
Quiescit Anima Libris "The soul (spirit) finds respite in books." (respite: rest, relief)

Work Cited:
Viorst, Judith.  Necessary Losses : The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have.  New York: Free P, 1998.