Greetings All, Welcome to the podcast “Close to the Bone.” I’m Carl Vreeland.

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OK, now to the podcast episode. . . .

This is episode #43, it’s called, “Love and Loss.”

I recently read post on Facebook that had a great impact on me. Although, not for the same reason one might think. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. . . .

The post was about a woman in London, who sits every day on the subway platform to listen to the “Mind the gap” announcement. It was recorded by her late husband back in 1950. Since his passing, she’s kept his presence alive by listening to it every day. Sadly at some point, the subway transport company replaced the recording. But shortly thereafter they heard from the woman expressing her distress about it. And so, the company restored the announcement at the subway stop near her home.

As one would expect from most media outlets, the post described the story in a highly romanticized manner. Which of course would make one question the accuracy of the story. And so, I looked further to verify the account. For certain, the BBC and other media outlets published articles about the story as well, giving similar details and quoting the woman. Although, the BBC article was more factual and was absent of sentimentality, as expected. All that said, the truthfulness of the story and its details are not as relevant to my point as much as the sentiment, sans the BBC version of course. Indeed, I’m more curious as to what the story evokes in the reader, and how the media manipulates us.

This is a quote from a Facebook post that credits, Life Journal, “. . . the company decided to restore the announcement in the only stop near the house where the woman lives, specifically at the Embankment stop of Northern Line, where all passengers can listen. . . to think that eternal love really exists.”

Yes, to think that eternal really love exists. . . . . Well of course we all want to believe in eternal love, just as we want to believe in heaven. But what is so romantic and heroic about perpetual grieving? And why do we sort of glamorize these types of stories in Western culture? In my view, with all due respect to this woman, this seems like a sad and tragic tale. Granted, it’s her choice in life; she has every right to stay single and loyal to her deceased husband. But I don’t believe this is the aspect of the story that people latch on to; I believe it’s the suffering. Not unlike Jesus on the cross; we identify with great suffering and self-sacrifice, especially in the name of love. After all, what greater act of love is there than voluntarily dying on the cross to save all of humanity? That said, perhaps the woman is not suffering, perhaps she’s content. But  we’re not interested in contentment. Again, we’re interested in pain and suffering.

So, why do we idealize this stance? Why do we pedestalize these figures dressed in black and their perpetually grieving? Why do we believe one should stay devoted to their deceased loved one? Why do we view them as loyal, heroic models, upholding the institution of marriage, displaying a supernatural strength of character. For certain, as I said, we admire their self-sacrifice, and we understand and feel their suffering. But why not move on in life? Why not let go and free ourselves of the past? Well. . . I think, although we’d hate to admit it—it’s what we hope our spouse would do if we were to pass away. We would want them to honor our marriage and great love.

Now to be clear, I’m not against this stance. I’m concerned about unnecessary suffering. Unnecessary, in that one feels obligated and pressured to play that role, contrary to how they may truly feel. No doubt, some feel strongly about upholding the institution of marriage in the eyes of God, in the hopes of seeing their deceased spouse in heaven someday. Although, I’m sure in certain cases, this could be just a display of sorts just to avoid judgement in the eyes of others. But. . .  maybe there’s more going on here. . . perhaps there’s a part of us unwilling to accept loss and death, unwilling to accept our powerlessness over death? Or could it be an anger toward God or the Universe for taking away our loved one? Or is it that we’re punishing ourselves and those around us because we can’t accept the loss? Or could it be our way of stomping our feet because this was not what we wanted? Or again, maybe it’s a bit of a show, to circumvent the judgment and criticism of others if we were to behave differently than the norm, such as being accepting and peaceful about our loss? I mean, how would people feel, what would they say if we didn’t show any signs of suffering?

So, what of the person that moves on? And moves on too quickly for our comfort? Why do some of us dislike this person who remarries? Especially the widower that marries too soon after their loss. Why do some of us look down upon those who have lost a spouse only to take on another wife or husband within a year or less? Why do we see this as a disrespectful act? Well, as I said before, it may be wishing thinking, in that we would hope our spouse wouldn’t move on so quickly, if at all. But, if you think about it, it’s a bit selfish isn’t it? Yes, I know, deep down, unselfishly, we would want our partner to be happy once we’re gone, well, perhaps after we’re long gone. . . .

Needless to say, this is all very complicated, isn’t it? I mean, why do we hold on to the people who have left us, in death or otherwise? Why do we cling? Well, perhaps it’s just another romantic construct, a romantic ideal perpetuated in Hollywood films, on Broadway, in popular songs, and in the church and institution of marriage. Sure, love has its origins in the evolution and survival of our species, and of course, the romantic model has been around for quite some time, and it most certainly serves us well; for the most part. But why must we be a slave to it, so to speak? Why can’t we view marriage and death differently and speak about it openly?

Ultimately, of course, the choice is ours as to how we want to live our lives, at least in most countries. My intention, as always, with this podcast, is to look more deeply at things, to question cultural norms and conventions, to question as to whether or not these norms serve us well, and to look at whether they are causing us and others great suffering and harm.

Well, I’ll leave it there. . . .

As always, thank you for listening. Again, if you enjoy this podcast, a great way to support it is to leave a Review, or Rate it, Subscribe to it, and Share it with others. Thank you again.

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