(Based in Queens, NY, Stanley Mieses is a freelance writer/editor whose work has appeared in a host of top-drawer magazines over the past 30-plus years, including The New Yorker, where he was a regular Talk of the Town contributor for several years under editor William Shawn, and Rolling Stone. This piece, originally posted on his Facebook page in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s savagery, speaks volumes about how people survive these disasters by focusing on the enduring values that even Mother Nature cannot wash away. Deep Roots is proud to share Mr. Mieses’ thoughts with our readers across the globe.)
If you’ve ever lived through a catastrophe in which you lost everything (in my case, a house I lived in burned to the ground and I walked away with only my cat and the coat on my back-and the coat was stolen the next day!) you know that living through that moment is very painful indeed. But looking back you realize that things do come back. Most things. You find a new roof over your head. You find new wheels. A couch to sit on, a TV to watch on that couch, a meal to eat in front of that TV, clothes, appliances, etc. Things comes back, money comes back. Not always, not all of it. That’s loss but in the bigger scheme of things it’s not tragedy (unless you’re a kid and it marks you.) There are things you lose in a catastrophe that are losses with lingering poignancy, if not recurring pain; the irreplaceable artifacts of a life lived-family photographs, a book given to you by Uncle Max when you graduated, the ring you found in a rain-forest village during your honeymoon; letters from people who broke your fucking heart or reminded you of how you were loved, stuff you thought was cool when your heart wasn’t broken. . . you get the idea. One-of-a-kind things that conjure up other people. Connection to good times. Love. Things you cherish, not merely possess. When those are washed away or blown away or go up in smoke. . .that’s real loss. I wish everyone who suffered this loss real healing. . . and new memories to fill the void.