• Ilan Cooley

walking away

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

We hold each other’s hands as he draws his last breath, her head on his chest. Inaudible words escape our lips. The world is a blur through streams of tears. The simultaneous expression of love and loss.


There is no measure for the distance of something impossible to navigate. No measure for the weight of something impossible to comprehend. Grief is immeasurable.


Walk away.


It is impossible to walk away. How do you leave when you know it is the last time? The last words spoken. The last gentle touch. The last memory made. There is no door. It is an endless hallway. It is seeing your own distorted reflection while trapped in a house of mirrors. No mortal can conjure the strength to find the way out. The act of leaving is surrender. It is admitting it is forever. There is no will to muster, or depth to dig.


Perhaps the only way through it is accomplished with the help of newly minted angel wings.

The first time I lost someone, I was too young to understand. I remember hiding beside a bed at my grandparent’s house with my brother, awaiting the arrival of the baby who did not make it home. A picture of his tiny coffin is my only other memory. I was three. I felt the loss. It was sad, and it was heavy.


The next time, I did not know the man in the coffin. I was five. I was told he was my grandfather. He was a stranger, but the weight of it was still there. That weight got heavier when my nana died. As a teenager, maybe the concept of mortality had begun to sink in. No amount of time erases her memory, or how much I miss her.


My grandpa was a pillar, and when he was gone I crumbled. I was an adult by then, and even though my dad had just lost his father, it was his hand on my shoulder that eased my sadness. By the time my grandma passed, I found the strength to help deliver her eulogy. I have now given far too many of them, and every time it is equally difficult, but I consider it an honour.


In the past three years I have lost a lot of people I cared about. The grief has seemed endless. In recent weeks I lost my cat too. You can say it is only a cat, but he was a special soul, and I still feel the loss deeply. I have come to understand when things get too heavy for us to carry, the people who care about us come to share our burdens. They just show up. They show up, and they offer their unconditional support.


This past week many kind souls have shown up for me. They have called, sent text messages, and gone on walks to stand with me and beside me. They have even brought cards and sent flowers. They did it when I lost a person, and they've done it now because I've lost my cat.


There is no way to ask someone for this kind of care and compassion, but the amazing thing is you don’t have to. They just show up, and that is how it works.


I believe this is an ongoing cycle. The struggles will not subside, and the need to give, or receive support will not stop. We will simply keep taking turns. We will take turns, and we will be there for one another.


We will carry one another down the endless hallway, when it is time to walk away.

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