The reality of juxtaposition and a dance called grief
Back in the old and forgotten days of high school, I used to search the texts we read in English class for juxtaposition. It has always been one of my favorite literary devices, and I think I even wrote my junior research paper about the juxtaposition of simple writing and complex subjects in Kurt Vonneguts work.
But all of my fondness for juxtaposition in writing didnt prepare me for the real-life and not literary juxtaposition that I recently experienced on a vacation with my family to London.
When we landed in England, we were excited to revel in grand scenery and tourist destinations streets filled with red telephone booths and people, Trafalgar Square, the Madame Tussauds museum and for a while, we were able to leave Lake Oswego behind. On the third day of our vacation, however, we found out that 13-year-old Pepper, our dog, had become very sick.
For as long as I can remember, Pepper has been a part of my life and my familys life. All of our best memories feature Pepper, a Yorkshire terrier, and, therefore, understanding that he was extremely sick and on the brink of death frightened all of us.
My mom returned home to be with Pepper during his last few days, and held him in her arms as he passed away. Meanwhile, my father, sister and I stayed back in London and continued our somewhat ambitious itinerary for the remainder of our vacation.
After Peppers death, still on this odd vacation, we went to the Lake District and visited the birthplaces of Wordsworth and Shakespeare. On another, griefless day, these sights would have meant so much to me. But that day, it felt as though I were a zombie, seeing things only because I had to see them for a pointless school assignment. Sightseeing no longer felt like sightseeing; it began to feel like a chore as my grief started to invade my thoughts and hinder my ability to enjoy the beauty all around me.
During this vacation, I saw juxtaposition jump out from the page and into my life as I learned to handle tragedy amidst something happy like a vacation. The experience reminded me that people on the streets of London or Portland or anywhere in the world are constantly dealing with tragedy and dancing with grief, although we might not always be able to see it.
The faces we wear on the outside might not reflect the feelings we harbor on the inside, and this truth became clearer and clearer as I vacationed (or rather, did chores) in London.
I will miss Pepper more than words can convey. He was a great dog, but more than that, he was a great member of our family. We never saw him as a dog, because he transcended that word he was equal to us or, realistically, probably better than us.
He has left a space in our home that no furniture, souvenirs or accomplishments could ever fill. But here is what Ive come to see: We are lucky to feel this space. We are lucky to notice the hole that a lost person or pet leaves behind. We are lucky to feel grief, for it is a reminder that we have loved, and that we will continue to love. This thought often reassures and comforts me.
Grief is a dance we all learn (even the uncoordinated like me), and sometimes, it involves walking around like a zombie attempting to sightsee in London. Grief is a perpetual dance, and when we learn it, its hard to forget. Maybe we dont have to forget it. Maybe we just realize that this dance called grief doesnt allow us to stop we must keep going, keep seeing things, because its all we can do.