My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)
For the memory of another is like a ship which one sees coming down a bay—the hull and the sails separating from the distance and from the outlying islands and capes—charged with freight and cutting open the waves, addressing itself in increasingly clear outlines to the impatient eyes on the waterfront; which, before it reaches the shore, grows ghostly and sinks in the sea; and one has to wait for the tides to cast on the beach, fragment by fragment, the awaited cargo.
—Glenway Wescott, novelist (1901-1987), from The Grandmothers
I copied this passage about a decade after the death of someone very dear to me, when I was more and more saddened, not only by my original loss, but by the drifting away, falling away, of huge chunks of memory of him—words, images—reminders that I had been able to call up and dwell in for a few minutes, gaining a certain sad comfort.
People speak of grief as if it has a certain “allotted” time, a “pull date” after which one “moves on.” Anyone who buys this has not yet suffered the death of someone close, even someone—and this is sometimes worse—with whom they were in constant conflict.
Anyone who has experienced such a loss knows that this grief does not gradually evaporate. It changes, sinks, breaks up—the tides of life occasionally flinging up a piece that hits you when you least expect it. You never mention the pain of such blows, of course. Those who mean to comfort you, expect you—sometimes, it seems—require that you reward their attention by pretending that you have “moved on.”
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