Is thanksgiving. Is not thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 27, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

I have had the discussion many times before.  It's a philosophical one.  it goes like this. 

Premise:  Without bad, we would not truly be able to know good.  Without darkness, we can't appreciate light.  Without sadness there is no true knowledge of happiness.

That's the premise.  It can be expanded or contracted (to one dichotomy), but the essence of the argument generally is the same. 

I should say upfront, that i've always thought that this idea was, at least mostly, crap.    I just think that if you were constantly happy, you may mellow into a contentment, but i somehow doubt that you need some good ol fashion pain to really feel good.  It somehow equates luck with necessity.   As in, someone lucky enough to escape hardship must get unlucky in order to appreciate how lucky he/she's been. 

But again, like many things in philosophy, these arguments only exist in the vacuum of theory.  In the non-existent plane where unexistable scenarios exist. 

Because bad, darkness, and sadness are, on the existent plane where existable scernarios exist, unavoidable.  And all three came to my house this thanksgiving.

If one can only know thankfulness in the face of great loss, then this year's thanksgiving was perhaps the most authentic ever.  On Wednesday, while leaving the hospital where he works as the head of psychiatrics, my Uncle Bill was hitting by a car in the parking lot.  As the news trickled up the phone lines from the big apple to western mass, we were told that his head hit the ground post-collision (the car was driven by a hospital employee who was not going very fast), and that he was in surgery.   The prognosis was unclear, but somehow simultaneously bleak. 

A few hours later the news came that his brain stem has been severed and he was, brain activity wise, gone.   And like that my uncle went from thanksgiving host to gone from our lives in a matter of hours.  Like someone took an eraser to my family and simply eliminated one of us.  So sudden.  So unfair. 

The new york laws for organ donation, i have learned this thanksgiving, are almost totally crazy.  While i realize that every one of them probably has a very sane reason (most likely stemming from totally crazy situations), in this situation, in order to use all of his extremely healthy organs, they had to wait for his body, the mechanical side (automatic processes like slight breathing can still continue without brain function) to completely give out. 

Functionally, for my family, this meant that we spent this thanksgiving waiting for the life to leave our uncle's body, so that in his last moments, he could save or improve countless other people's lives.  This process of waiting, as i implore you not to imagine, is incredibly difficult on those who love Bill, particularly my aunt.  My aunt, who has worked so hard to create the life she wanted with the man she loves so much.  my heart crumbles at the thought of her.  the thought that, were i in her position, my heart would be left a pile of dust.  This is sadness.  This is the dark. 

The memorial on Sunday was delayed til next weekend.  With all of the organ donation, the hospital wasn't sure he'd be gone in time for his own memorial.  That sentence typifies the surrealism of the past four days for me.

My mother went to new york to be with her sister, my aunt.  This is her 2nd thanksgiving in a row in a hospital.  Exactly a year ago, we were standing by my grandmother's hospital bed holding a vigil (she is doing well!).  The rest of my family went to my parents house in western mass as planned.  We sat together.  Took walks.  Chatted. 

We sat in the darkness, in the bad, in our sadness.  But together.  We put what was left of our inner fires, we took all of our tiny internal flickers, and we put them together in order to light a way forward.  And i think its fair to say that we were thankful for that.  For the comfort of the familiar that comes when surrounded by family.  And we did the best we could.  Feeling angry and lost and thankful and sad and shocked all at once. 

It should be noted that my mother is such an expert at thanksgiving at this point that even in her absence she had pre-prepared the entire meal for the rest of us.  She even made my favorite dessert for me.  I wish we could have shared it.  And i miss Bill.  And i'm hurting for my aunt. 

and all this crap.  this sad dark bad crap.  just doesn't feel like it's gonna make me understand happiness in any deeper, more fundamental earth-shattering way.  Though, if knowing its opposite is the key to unlocking that goodness . . .

 . . . i've never been more ready to be wrong.

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