Speaking of loss and grief…

My thanks to Eric Muller over at Is That Legal? for showing me this essay by Roger Angell in the current New Yorker. Yes, this paragraph is pretty much pitch-perfect, as is the entire piece a beautiful bit of writing on loss, grief, and the persistence of memory to call up what we cannot bare:

Loss is the common currency of family tales—who doesn’t have a sad ancestor or a stopped child to tell about?—but it isn’t talked about much, out of respect for others, whose news, come to think of it, is probably worse than our own. “Get over it!” is the cry I hear lately in conversations about some mopey pal or once happy couple, by which we mean shut up about it, give us a break. My grandfather Charles Sergeant, a stooped, sweetly polite man, painted oil landscapes in his old age, standing before his easel in tweeds, with an incessant ash hovering on the tip of his Chesterfield. He could not have forgotten his early orphaning or the sudden loss of his young wife, but he never got around to such matters at the dinner table. I am his age now, and find myself wondering what he thought about late at night in his bedroom, or in the unexpected moment when his gaze lifted from the sunlit cove or difficult oak he wished to capture on his little canvas. I could also jump back a good deal farther here and speculate in similar fashion about Captain John Sheple (as the name was then spelled), the murdered James Shepley’s great-great-great-grandfather, who at seventeen was captured by the Abenaki Indians on July 27, 1694, in a raid on Groton, Massachusetts. He was one survivor of a massacre—it was an early skirmish in the French and Indian Wars—that took twenty-two lives, including those of his parents and his two siblings. After a captivity of more than three years, he returned to his native town, where he married, produced five children, and, in the words of a local historian, “held many offices of trust and responsibility, both civil and ecclesiastical.” His memories are not mentioned, and no wonder.


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