"The Original Vessel" is described in honor of a single father named Howard, whose only daughter, Lori, had been murdered. For years after it happened, Howard lost interest in everything he once valued. He felt 'completely gutted' inside and could hardly muster the energy to do more than 'go through the motions." When asked if anything gave him pleasure or even a moment of joy he looked out the window and stated,
It's like those cargo ships down there. Once they dock and unload, they re down to the original vessel -- you know, the core structure, empty and waiting. Well, that's me now. I used to take on things I thought gave me joy --my house, my car, my boat---but now they mean nothing. With Lori gone, I don't care about loading up again. Or let me say this: You can bet if anything remotely interesting comes along, I won't just acquire it and throw it in the hold like I used to do. I want to decide what has meaning for me and what doesn't.
This idea of the essential vessel --the 'core self," the "essential you," the "person you really are" -- is the one part of us that remains after tragedy empties us out. But if there is any benefit to grief (and for years I would have sworn there was none), it lies in the possibility of building a new and even fulfilling life from the ruins. We learn that when we're young, we may not give much thought to the decisions we make, because if we've made a mistake, we live with it and go on. But later, something happens---the death of a child ---that leads us to 'unpack' or reexamine our choices and see if we're on the journey we've always wanted. (1)
Even Sigmund Freud, on the day his deceased daughter Sophie would have been 36 years old, wrote in a letter to a friend:
Although we know that after such a loss the acute state of mourning will subside, we also know that we shall remain inconsolable and will never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else. (2)
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross stated that facing such a profound loss means facing the ultimate of life. To live to the fullest requires an awareness that life is ultimately short and that everything we do must be made to count. When the unthinkable happens we are forced to see that we ultimately do not have the final say.(3)
Thinking about those perspectives challenges us to find a way to look beyond the fiery pain of loss. Though our vessels may feel like they have been emptied, important treasures are still in that hold for which we can be thankful. Identifying and acknowledging those treasures and allowing them to 'bloom & grow' offers hope that our ship will sail again....with precious cargo. Like Howard, adding 'new' cargo could become a very selective process, yet profoundly meaningful.
The bumper sticker phrase "What Would Jesus Do?" has presented itself to me through the years when I'm 'out-and-about' town. These days I've added to that...."What Would My Child Want Me To Do?"
The Day The Music Died: Discusses experiences and lack of joy from things we previously enjoyed.
Our Children Are Not Lost: Discusses how we look at what has happened to our child.
How To Talk To a Bereaved Parent: Discusses the sadness of 'silence'.
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(1) From: Sugar Cookies And A Nightmare: Carol Kearn
(2) From: Sugar Cookies And A Nightmare:Carol Kearn
(3) Quote from Elisabeth Kulber-Ross w/link to information about her