Friday, January 20, 2012

Loss and LOVE AT WAR

I've thought quite a bit about LOSS these days. While losing people and/or things is part of the life cycle, that loss does not diminish the devastating effect it has on our lives. My father died shortly before my twelfth birthday. His death devastated my family, tore us apart, and resulted in my leaving the only home I'd known since birth. As is the case with most people, I've lost friends, family, and lovers over the years. Some have simply moved on. Others have kept in touch; others have not. Still others no longer grace this earth, and they live only in the shadowy land of my memory. Most recently, I lost my beloved mother in 2008. Of course, I was lucky to have her for so long. She lived until she was eighty-six, and I was an adult when she died. It was her brothers' letters that inspired me to write LOVE AT WAR (, my own chronicle of WWII and the carnage it created.

Loss can exist on a small and a grand scale. Catastrophic events can result in the deaths of thousands, even millions. For example, millions of people--civilians and soldiers--died in the two world wars as well as in conflicts like Viet Nam. On a large scale, people often suffer the loss of their homes and communities during war, and on the even more personal front, individuals suffer the loss of loved ones they held close to the breast. I'd heard tales of my uncles in WWII. I never met the uncle who didn't come back, but I'd heard of him in glorious detail. He'd built a window fan for my grandmother's kitchen, and he'd saved his own money so that his little brother could have skates for Christmas when money was tight. His daughter is my beloved goddaughter. Listening to tales of his life helps me place him at the metaphoric family table, arousing my curiosity; however, such tales are bittersweet. I'll never know this man. Even his daughter never saw him.

Loss. . .I'd heard tales of catastrophic loss, but I'd never experienced the horror of it until Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. That tragedy, too, was a war in many ways, and like war victims, we mourned those we lost, shed tears, and then moved on, rebuilding our lives. Perhaps we're like people who have been in war. We now all too well understand the horror of loss. Katrina shook me in ways I can't even begin to describe, but in a positive way, it also made me more in tune to the suffering of others. Pre-K, I would hear of natural disasters, feel some stirring of sympathy, and move on. Now, I feel the loss all too well. I fully emphasize with their plight and remember my own sense of terror when I knew my old life was gone. At one point, we were called "refugees" by our own countrymen. So many people in war become refugees. Now, I know what it is like to be "displaced" and to feel alone. You become the ultimate existentialist--alone, all alone, and seemingly, no one hears you. You are just one person flailing alone in cold water.

LOSS is at the root of war. Young people march into battle, and war is devastating no matter how it begins. Civilians and soldiers die in the carnage, and we, the survivors, can only bleed for their loss, place a bandage on our gaping wounds, and pray for healing. All that remains are memories of the good times we shared with those we loved and cherished. In LOVE AT WAR, Nuala suffers great loss when she believes her husband is a casualty of war, but like many brave souls, she puts a metaphoric salve on our wounds and forms a plan of revenge.

I once asked my mother why my grandmother so seldom smiled. My mother stared at me for a long time before answering. She said that too much had been taken from Grandma. Only until after did I really understand what she meant. LOVE AT WAR,


  1. Loss is so difficult to understand and deal with. My father died in June of last year after a 3 year battle with lung cancer. Great Post!

  2. This post of yours really made me think, Viola. I've lost three of the four people closest to my heart since Christmas Day 2008. But how do people who lose their entire families feel? And what about entire communities swept away by floods or tsunamis like the one in Japan last year? What about communities decimated by genocide? I suppose mankind has a built-in survival mode that we kick into in order to deal with the tragedies we encounter during this journey we call life. Some call it faith. I think that's what gets me through it all.