The contemplation of loss – of almost anything- strikes fear into most hearts. It causes more anxiety to those who have never experienced it than those who have. The value, length of ownership for material things or duration and intensity of a relationship are not directly the cause of the pain of the loss.
Like many things in life, the expectation is far worse than the reality. If the loss is absolute, final, not reversible, our only choice is to accept it and move on. No amount of whining, complaining or focusing on the unfairness of it will change anything.
Last Saturday, I was privileged to be invited as the guest speaker at the Baptist Men’s Breakfast meeting at First Baptist Church in Ingersoll. It was an enjoyable meeting, I met many interesting people.
In discussions after my talk, several members of the audience commented that they had led very quiet, ordinary and unexciting lives compared to mine.
Others told me that they could not imagine losing everything as I had. I have heard this comment often after telling my story at other venues, to other audiences.
I find it very difficult to explain that:
You can only understand how unimportant material things are after you have lost them.
Homes, cars, clothes, furniture are all important, they make life easier, more comfortable. But apart from clothes for modesty and protection from the weather, they are not essential for life.
Losing family, friends and animals is more painful, but life can and must go on without them.
The loss of all our assets, our farm, home, income, pets, horses and our country was painful for Sue and I. But we accepted that the loss was beyond our control. Part of the adversity we had to overcome. Our only choice was to face it, and move on.
Losing things like cars, furniture, all the clutter accumulated over a lifetime was amazingly liberating.
We arrived in Canada with 2 suitcases and a saddle each, 6 cats and just enough cash to buy an old pickup truck.
The bare minimum of furniture, appliances, cutlery, kitchen utensils were bought as cheaply as possible, second-hand or from discount stores.
We did not have to worry about transporting a shipping container full of household items, arranging expensive storage at either end of the voyage, having it delivered. No problem with finding much of it would be unsuitable for the cold climate and small houses in Canada.
It would have been nice to have brought all our family photos, pictures, ornaments, old books, letters, vinyl records, stuff that reinforces memories. But it has been easier without them.
We were able to draw a line under our old lives and start again. New life, new country, new things. Too much old stuff would have resulted in too uncertain a line.
Loss is generally worse in the anticipation than the event itself.
Our children have brought a few of the more treasured photos, books and ornaments on their visits. More stuff is still stored in Zimbabwe.
12 years on, we no longer miss what we could not bring. Despite being determined not to accumulate a house full of stuff again, we are well on the way to doing just that. But this time we have been much more selective about what we buy. Much more ruthless in disposing of stuff we do not want to keep.
After my talk, one man told me he knew exactly what I meant about the unimportance of material things. As a child, he had lived in Cuba before Castro’s revolution, his family had been forced to flee. They left everything behind.
They recovered, their lives went on.
So will yours if you are unfortunate enough to lose all your material possessions.
Just believe that it will and that you do not need them to be happy.
loss graphic courtesy Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net