The 5th of July - An Essay on Grief & Fairness
Updated: Sep 13
- P. G.-
I can remember spending an entire family vacation paranoid about every star or flashing light I saw. I couldn’t have been older than 11 or 12.
I had seen a small clip of a news show in passing the week prior: it spoke briefly about nuclear war and the fact that other countries possessed weapons of mass destructions and were more or less capable of shooting them at any point.
To my young self, this was a paralyzing revelation. You mean at any point we could just up and die? This was my first encounter with my mortality, sparking a fascination I still haven’t seemed to escape all these years later. I remember sitting at an ocean-side restaurant watching the planes glide across the navy Florida sky and thinking that any one of those far-off stars could be the harbinger of my demise.
My mom was alive then. She noticed me deep in thought and began to probe my nervous behavior. After some prodding, I acquiesced and told her of the pending nuclear threat. I’m sure I did so gravely, too, in a way that only someone who feels they are much older and wiser than they are can.
I remember vividly what she said to me: Relax.We’re safe. Everything is fine. Trust in the fact that it will all be fine. Bad things don’t just happen on a whim. Bad things don’t just fall out of the sky into the laps of the unexpecting… and certainly not the undeserving.
I can remember believing her. I can remember trusting her and those words in a way only a boy can with his mother. What a strange feeling that must be, maternity. It’s like a foreign angel, a lover from a past life, gliding around the outskirts of the shadow of my brain. It tortures and it teases me.
Things were okay then, I remember. My vacation went on swimmingly and my childhood had been reassembled if only hastily so. Bad things don’t just happen on a whim, she had told me. There is order and causality in this world I was still so new too, and I accepted that comfortably because it made sense but most of all because it made things better.
She died about a year later. She was 47. It’s been 11 years now as I write this. I wish I could’ve gone on believing her a little bit longer, but it got a lot more difficult after watching the same world she had defended so fiercely radiate the life out of her body and soul.
It gets hard to believe in causality or karmic equality when things like that happen to you at such a young and formative age. When you’re a teenager, you already feel like the worlds about out to get you… I just happened to have an extraordinary piece of evidence.
I never thought I was bitter about it all; as I write this I realize that’s not true. How long can you hide from your own truths? Longer than we may even realize, I think. I am bitter and angry and I’m not sure I ever won’t be.
That might just take a level of emotional self-exploration I’m never going to be capable of, but I’ll keep guiding this doomed-ass submarine deeper and deeper into the depths of my oceans. Maybe one day we’ll get there. Maybe we never will. It will be okay either way.