Monday, July 11, 2011

LOSS

Loss is a four letter word.

On this date in 1979, the world was looking up.  Literally speaking, anyway.  The first US space station, Skylab, had been losing orbit and that date was the forecasted date it would re-enter and burn up in the atmosphere.  It was something of a loss to the space program - just 5 years earlier it was a shining outpost in space where Americans set longevity records for humans in space, and experiments were performed in its microgravity environment.  Plans had been drawn up for the up-and-coming Space Shuttle to boost its orbit and refurbish it... but Shuttle had encountered delays and wouldn't launch for another two years.  As an avid reader about the space program at the time, the magazines I read had been talking about the research on Skylab for years, so I was keenly following its re-entry.

That morning, however, my mind was elsewhere.  I had been woken up with news that my grandfather had died.  A very different kind of loss.  His funeral was the first that I ever attended.  Over the years, a lot of details about him have escaped my mind.  I do still remember that he was a major presence in my early life.  I remember some of the games I would play with him.  I remember holidays at his house, some of which my family continues to talk about to this day.  I remember visiting him in his dentist office.  I remember him showing me his Army insignia from when he served as a dentist in Germany in WWII.  There were many things about him I didn't know until years later - how he trained to be a dentist in pre-war Germany, how he also served as a translator during the war.  And I certainly couldn't have envisioned that I would, someday, give his name as my son's middle name in his memory.  On that morning in July 1979, all I could think about was how I wasn't going to see him again.

The past week has not been good to family pets, it seems.  A very good friend lost their family cat of 17 years on Monday.  The loss was hard on her family - it was the first family pet they had lost.  Last Saturday, my Sister-in-law lost one of her dogs to a very tragic accident.  She is so committed to all her animals, an event like this is devastating.  Pets have a unique place in our hearts - not the same role as family plays, but filling a need that family itself cannot.  They are with us for a relatively short period of our own lives, so they teach us about loss as well.

There are many things we lose.  We lose our keys.  Lose our lunch.  Lose our way.  The loss of hair, or hearing, or our youthful figure.  We suffer from the loss of friends, family, and all sorts of creatures we love, either by their death or departure from our daily lives.  And while the loss is important... what is more important is where and how we move on.  Taking the time to mourn and adapt our lives to the loss.  Cherishing the memories of those we've lost... learning the lessons they have taught us... applying them to our lives... and ultimately moving forward.  Eventually, we turn that loss into a gain.