Determined, at 66, to finally return to the town of his youth Jazz drives back to Rutherford, NJ. Driving around he sees that some of the four homes they lived in during those years were demolished; some are still there but so remodeled as to be unrecognizable except for their street address. The street of gigantic trees whose branches arched over and shaded their summer afternoons is now bare, the trees having long ago been cut down and the hot sunshine now baking the sidewalks. The old German deli is now a tattoo shop. Sometime over the years the meadows between Rutherford and New York City sprouted the Meadowlands Sports Complex. The house that used to be the home and office of Jazz’s now deceased family physician Dr. William Carlos Williams, the famous American poet, has reverted to being just another house on the block. For Jazz who had been gone from Rutherford for 52 years the change seems abrupt and startling and he had to accept that the town of his memories is now no more. It was a loss. He wondered if, for those living there all through those years, the change had been so gradual as to be unnoticeable.
Some changes, however, are so abrupt and so dramatic that one second becomes “before” and the next second becomes “after.” The day that Kennedy was shot, and 9-11 come to mind. When loss pushes us into an unsought “after” we often find ourselves angry, sad, confused and unsure. In a fictional story by Lauren Groff she wrote: “I heard that the 2 black swans have started building a nest again, though how they can bear it after having lost their two cygnets, after all they’ve lost… I do not know.” Like the swans, at some point in our life we all must wrestle with, “How do we continue in the presence of our loss?” If we are talking about a pair of sunglasses we know to go out and buy a new pair, but when a love has left us… a person, a town… how do we go on?! The answer is: one day at a time. Each day has tasks that need attending, and by attending to them… no matter how mundane they might be… time slowly passes, and each passing day takes us further away from the trauma of that despairing moment of loss. Each day that passes teaches us that no matter how much pain has occurred we can still live at least a bit more, at least one day more, and that when another new day comes we CAN start over! So after our loss we resume our life: we go to work, we wash the laundry, we cook meals, we… simply… refuse to give up. Each day is simply one step at a time and 365 of them later we have a year; one day at a time and years down the road we have a life lived, a town changed.
Each of our lives is a journey and the pilgrim’s attitude needs to be: no matter the circumstances I am determined to be happy and to neither give into nor to embrace negativity. Changing our attitude from resistance to Life’s changes, and into acceptance, is the first step required by our “after” days. In the beginning this does not feel natural, but that does not matter: Just do it!