On beginnings and endings, and making sense of loss

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Everything has a beginning; everything has an end.

There are beginnings of endings and endings of beginnings.

I’ve been thinking about these things for a while. A couple of weeks ago I was on Vancouver Island, sitting on a beach in Ross Bay, Victoria. It was a beautiful, still, late winter day, with milky sunshine just about winning over the high clouds. The sea was calm. I sat on the stony beach and played with the stones, got lost in the moment, and stared at the sea. Just a short distance from shore a couple of Orcas kept surfacing and disappearing. I’d never seen an Orca in the wild before.

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I thought about beginnings and endings. We’re good at beginnings; not so good with endings. We pretend that endings don’t exist. We go into denial. This isn’t healthy, because when endings come along, we are devastated. We can’t handle loss. Why did this happen to me?

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Our egos place us at the centre of the world. At the centre of all time. Isn’t this all about us? So we struggle greatly with the passage of time: ageing, the ultimate loss. Our culture doesn’t know how to deal with ageing, and the gradual loss of attributes that it values so highly. In a society where youth is worshipped, celebrities go to all sorts of surgical lengths to preserve their appearances: the illusion of youth in an old body.

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We don’t know what to do with our old, so we try to hide them away. They remind us of the inevitable passage of time. And death scares us. In our horror at being reminded that our stay here is just temporary, we can’t allow ourselves to celebrate the life of one who just passed, so instead we enter solemn mourning and try to get it all over with as quickly as possible.

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But the truth is this: the end is part of the beginning. If we are to live life properly, we must integrate endings into beginnings. We must acknowledge that all is temporary: that we will have an ending just as we had a beginning, and seasons of our lives will begin and then end. Integrate the end into the beginning, and live in the present. Then we will be able to deal with loss. Celebrate what the passing of time brings, and there is no need to mourn what is lost.

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The route to happiness is, in large part, seeing ourselves as part of something bigger. We are players in a production that began before we joined and which will continue once we are gone. We need to play our part well, and then – to use the relay race analogy – we take the baton and hand it on to the next runner. Suddenly we are not at the center. We relax, knowing that it is not all about us. The weight is off our shoulders, and we no longer need fear loss, or endings. They are part of the beginnings, and there are always new beginnings to be had. And each ending is a beginning.

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11 comments to On beginnings and endings, and making sense of loss

  • Paddy

    I love this post. I like many of your posts but was not expecting this from Wine Anorak today. I think that made me love it that much more.

    If you are ever passing thru Texas, send me an email and I will treat you to a few Lone Star beers and the best BBQ around

  • Leeann Froese

    A very thoughtful and beautiful post, Jamie.

  • Andrew Gunn

    Indeed Jamie, we humans have an inflated view of our place in the world, I have no desire to be young again, don’t have the energy! Take care.

  • Bob Parsons Alberta

    Right now I have some life issues..but thanks Jamie.

  • Very deep Jamie :-) More of a weekend read rather than a working day’s morning one. Enjoyed it though. Cheers. Take care. Julien PS: beautiful photos btw

  • Keith Prothero

    I also have some health issues but have no complaints as have generally been very healthy in my relatively long life.
    Guess most of us don’t worry quite so much about leaving but more how we leave. Which is why I am a strong advocate of voluntary euthanasia
    A good thoughtful piece Jamie

  • Beautiful thoughtful and peaceful piece.. thank you for sharing your ‘moment’. I suspect you have recently suffered the loss of a loved one. If so, condolences. If not, thanks for your own enlightenment..

  • Luis

    Hmmm…. we can think of this from another perspective, perhaps have some Meursault. Then we would be staring at the sea in a different mood, staring at ourselves, reflected in the eyes of the dead man on the beach. All things come and go, and as Meursault we can opt to not care, accept our fates. a big hug my friend.

  • Stu

    I always think of a lyric from 90s/00s songsters Semisonic on thoughts/topics such as this:

    “Every new beginning, comes from some other beginnings end”

  • Lovely piece of thoughtful writing Jamie.

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