“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”- Stephen Hawking
How do you know when someone’s really gone? It seems there are so many markers at first…empty rooms, meals alone, no one to share a good movie or concert with, to travel with, to ski with, a voice you don’t hear, handwriting you don’t see…the reminders are endless. And yet, none of them really mean the person is gone forever. It isn’t until you can say the world has changed so much since they left that they wouldn’t know the one we live in now. Global and local politics ruled by people my husband couldn’t have imagined, stocks he might have hoped would rise on the market, but never have truly predicted, accomplishments of grandchildren grown to people he wouldn’t recognize, all point to change beyond the world he lived in. We’re in a different place he’s never been a part of. That’s how I know he’s really gone.
Many years ago, I lost a dear friend in an accident when he was only 21. He was a dynamic person, and so, easy to hold onto in memory. Then, suddenly one day, I realized that I was thinking of him in the world we’d inhabited together, but that I had miraculously become twice the age he was when he died. Trying to have those conversations in my head with a 21-year-old friend when I was 40-years-old convinced me that he was really gone. The boy I was talking to had no knowledge of the world in which I lived, so we shared no commonality anymore. That’s when I also knew I’d loosened his hold on me forever.
Does this happen to us with people who are still living within our physical realm? I’d never considered it before, but I realized, when talking with a group of old acquaintances recently, that while I could still carry on a coherent conversation with them, just as I had my 21-year-old friend who’d died in my adolescent years, they didn’t know who I was or how I’d been living in my world, which was no longer theirs. It had no relevance for them (nor they for me, I might add), as I’d moved on to a new place. That made me understand that I, too, could be ‘gone’ in relation to others. Best to stop living with the nostalgia of a world that had included me and them, which doesn’t exist anymore.
It’s tough on our reality checks to be able to see people and hear their voices when they aren’t there for us. And yet, I can tell it’s best to move right along, as we must with people who’ve died. The world has turned, and they’re stuck in a different place and time that isn’t real for us. But it’s hard.
Why should it be so difficult to acknowledge that the universe we resonate in doesn’t contain them? Because it’s so hard to move ourselves; to leave, or be left. I used to think being left behind was harder, possibly because I was the youngest in a large family and always trying to keep up. But now I know letting go and leaving others is even harder, because it’s an action you must initiate entirely on your own. The world is turning and we must go with it. ‘Moving right along’ is the only way to live fully. I can remember being urged to do that by my grandmother, as I’d hang back to avoid something new. ‘Let’s move right along, young lady’, she’d say. Reminding me just as often that, ‘he who hesitates is lost’.
And so, you see I know how important it is to let go. It’s even important to move right along when you’ve gone, without hesitation, leaving people behind you once knew who don’t share your ethos anymore. It’s important, but not as hard as I used to think if you stay true to your inner voice. Once you’ve realized and admitted that they, or you, have really gone, the movement starts. Once you see that the world isn’t the same place it was when they shared space with you, it’s suddenly a lot easier to ‘move right along’.