“I once was lost but now I’m found.” These words sound like the ideal arc of a human story, a suggestion that there is a destination and a landing place in the struggle that is life. But as more grey hairs push their way out of my scalp, I feel a stronger sense of truth in the idea that our human journeys are not linear and have no destination. There are uncountable losses and uncountable moments of finding ourselves, perhaps in different ways or at greater depths, but there is no single arc of a human story.
This year, I lost my father to Covid. He died alone, determined to live and struggling against a hasty departure. There was no funeral, no ashes delivered that we could disperse, no personal effects I could sleep with at night to absorb my dad’s vanishing presence by holding close. There was an imperfect relationship to mourn, now recognizing with finality that a chance for redemption was no longer on the table; it was what it was, and that was all it would ever be.
The love, sadness and grief that I became acquainted with were like new strains of those same feelings – somehow fortified and surprising. The “what ifs” tormented me the first week after the death, followed by days of wondering how long it would take to feel like myself again. And right in the centre of all this, for the first time in 25 years, me and my sisters had reconnected. They were just video calls, but it was the first time all three of us, who lived in different time zones, were present, all together. We had only found this revived desire to belong to each other again because of the loss that we so deeply shared in very similar ways. It wasn’t subtle or nuanced; it was strikingly obvious and plain to see that something lost had allowed for something else to be found.
And while I cringe at forced attempts to prematurely turn a negative into a positive and deny the full breadth of loss in doing so, I think that one of the truths I can solidly agree to as a liver of life is that we cannot judge any experience on the face of it. And just as beauty and connection can lead to loss and pain, loss and pain can lead to beauty and connection.
Contributed by Salima Stanley-Bhanji
“Lost and Found” is the theme for Humainologie’s inaugural Short Story Festival, a festival that celebrates a literary form shaped by oral storytelling traditions throughout time and from communities all over the world. To learn more about the festival or to submit a story before the October 31, 2021 deadline, go to: http://www.humainologie.com/short-story-festival/.