At the beginning of a documentary the off-screen Director asks the on-screen woman to describe, in one word, her feelings about her missing adult son; the word the woman utters becomes the name of the documentary: “Gone”. Her adult son, who is openly gay, has gone abruptly missing one evening while living in Vienna. Because he is gay the Viennese police are disinclined to be helpful, and the woman’s month-after-month search for her son produces nothing. The first year becomes, almost unnoticed, the second year. As one can imagine the son’s absence is an agonizing presence in the woman’s heart. And yet she still needs to work and to pay bills, still needs to eat even when her heart asks: “What’s the point?” So, by way of coping, she makes up an inviolable rule for herself: No crying before 4pm so she can still function; after 4pm however, she allows herself to be possessed by her pain. Her story is the story of each of us when an ongoing pain is suddenly thrust upon us. We all reach a point where it becomes crystal clear to us that wailing in our pain is not producing a resolution; at that point we all wonder: “Now what?”
This is the moment when we have to embrace “as if”. Just like the woman who does not allow crying before 4pm we go about our daily life “as if” all is normal, even though the enormous hole in our heart makes clear to us that nothing is normal now. Living “as if” keeps us from being immobilized by the pain, even if living this way does not diminish that pain. There can be moments, however, when living “as if” can briefly crack open a window in our heart and allow a gentle insight of normalcy to seep in. And one of the insights that can come to us is that some realities in life simply cannot be either understood or rectified. For the one in pain, however, to accept that this is so feels like a betrayal of the one we miss, as if in accepting this understanding we are giving up on our beloved. This is the point in a person’s life when the seriousness of life, of relationships and of our love stand before us stark naked, a point for which no amount of Hallmark cards has prepared us.
At that point, once again the thought comes to us: “Now what?” The answer to this is that from that moment on we take things more seriously, knowing as we now do that we could lose them just like that! This means that we stop playing games with those whom we love. We stop giving in to the impulse to be petty with them, to taunt them or to harass them. This is the point where we really begin to be present, where we really begin to live. We may be tempted to whine that it is “unfair” that we must suffer a major love-loss before we can wake up… but that’s just the way that it is.