Elatia Harris left a comment here yesterday that is too apropos to not share. Thank you Elatia.
I do understand what you’re going through. People our age either know what it is to see their friends dying or they don’t yet know but soon will. Looking back on it all — and, alas, living with the certainty that there will be more of it — I believe it’s a real rite of passage, just not the kind one can anticipate without denial or live through without almost desperate grief. It’s better not to carry on as if it weren’t happening. If it is happening, then it’s huge, and bowing down to it is the only thing to do. As badly as you have to get back to work, you don’t have to get back to work as badly as you have to let this happen to you.
Among so many other aspects of grief in this case is the truly uncanny one — that the number of people who knew us well through all our most important earlier passages is diminishing, the witnesses to our own evolution thus falling away, never again to flourish. The past seems so much more gone, so much longer ago. As a friend — an only child — once told me when her mother died, “Now no one remembers when I was born.” It’s too selfish and unbecoming to experience loss this way, but our primal nature doesn’t know that, and it is there that we are struck and threatened in the midst grief for the beloved other.
I keep thinking of the photo of the woman in Indonesia, kneeling beside the sea after the tsunami of December, 2005, waiting for it to throw her children back to her. It’s not clear if she fully understands they have died, only that they will be cast up by the tide. Behind her and outside the camera’s range is the place where her village was. It no longer exists; small wonder that she faces away from it, away not only from the loss of her children but the loss of the people who remembered her children. And yet, there she is — trusting to Providence to bring her back something that matters.