21: Purpose – Wanting

Still I call to my lost love. She died sud­den­ly over a year ago.[1] Yet still I call to her to come and talk with me. She, and her mother, and others had paranormal experiences which – if we are to accept them at face value – confirm the existence of the afterlife. And as the years passed, I always assumed that my dear, dear wife would come to me, in however small a way to say some­thing, however insignificant, to say perhaps that she is all right, and that the pain of her life-long illness has now gone, and that she can now rest at last from her suffering. But no … nothing as tangi­ble as I have been wanting. In the early months, I did experience a handful of ‘comings through’, in which I did not hear her voice, but nevertheless had a sense of meaning, and that it was indeed she who was conveying it … mostly to help me find lost things (I am forever losing things; here in this little house, hundreds of items are lost, hidden somewhere, somehow), and that was of course so very much appreciated.

It is not the loss of my lost love that causes my despair, for that despair has been with me since childhood, since even before that day when I learnt that the weather was the cause of my head­aches. But her loss has intensified that despair in a specific way which traps me even more securely beyond all hope of improvement. For I have lost my purpose. I came to this world in order to find her and to care for her through her illness, for there was no one else able to do it – no parent, no sibling, no friend, no spouse other than me. So that was my role, and I see now how enormous was that sense of purpose that it bestowed on me. And now it is gone, and I am so totally adrift. I cannot begin to express adequately the quality of distress that this loss-to-add-to-my-loss has caused me. Now that I am qualified to judge the matter, I think I would more easily have borne anything in its stead, any pain, any loss, any humiliation, any ca­lamity.

In all other respects, my life, what it is, what I do, why I do it, how it matters to me, all these things have not changed. I have lost two things – my love and my purpose, and if through all those years, from childhood onwards, I experienced what I am calling despair, then what do I call this thing that I experience now? For it is not the same. It is of course in some regard larger, more insistent, more painful, more intrusive, more hate­ful, and more destructive of any endeavour that I might hope to bring to bear against it.

The loss and grief that I have suffered is com­mon to all, and is an inevitable aspect of the Human Condition, the condition we are doomed to live as a consequence of being self-conscious, of being aware that we are aware, and being able to narrate the stories of our lives, both in terms of their histories and in terms of their anticipations and hopes and terrors for the future, knowing that we are both the narrators of our lives as well as the people who must live them.

I have of course sought the purpose that I so desperately need, yet I cannot find it. I do not know how to search, and I do not know how to recognise the object of my search. I might have passed a dozen times what I seek and for which I yearn, and I simply cannot see it…

[1] I provide a full account of this, discussing my experience of grief in another book, Another Grief Observed, which in part re­sponds to the thoughts of the author C. S. Lewis in his little book A Grief Observed.


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