Life goes on; death goes on.

When your child dies it feels as if the world should end, that nothing could possibly go on as normal. But the world absorbs the death of your child and keeps on going, seemingly indifferent. The continuation of mundane existence seems to highlight the horror of your loss.

How can I be making small talk? How can I be worrying about what to wear, what to eat? Yet I do. The world goes on and I with it, even though it feels like a betrayal of my son.

And not only life goes on, but death, too. People don’t stop living and people don’t stop dying. You think you can’t possibly feel any more pain than you have already felt, and then someone you care about dies, and you realise that your capacity for pain just grows to accomodate each successive tragedy.

On Saturday we buried David Brien. We gathered to mark his passing and honor his life. For a few hours the world seemed to hold its breath and we grieved together. Then we turned away from each other and returned to the ordinary and mundane. But the world to which we returned was a world changed, a world a little less bright, a little less loving, because David was no longer there.

“All will be well” according to Julian of Norwich. Do I believe that? I don’t know what I believe any more, but David believed. And David, wherever he is, is no longer in pain and for that I am grateful. Could we have loved him more? Yes. Could we have saved him? No. I lived with my son Malcolm, I saw him every day and ate with him most evenings. We talked. We went out for lunch. We shared jokes and books and ideas. But I didn’t know that he was planning to take his life. And even if I had, I’m not sure what I could have done other than have him committed for a while. But what then?

It is arrogant of us to think we can save another human being. We can’t–unless they want to be saved. All we can do is try to save ourselves and try to love each other a little more.

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