This post is a response to my friend, Nirmala Seshadhri Jaggannath, who lost her husband, Steve, last year. She has kindly let me use it for my blog. This is her response to the last post, LOVING YOUR BODY:

Dear Kamla:

Thanks for your outpouring on the material and gross journey of life that gets over shadowed by our mental state all or most of the time. Something in the image of your description of your mother and her body made me write this to you since those images are very pertinent with not only old age but poor health. I had to see my Steve go from being an athlete, (he was a sprinter and qualified for the Olympics) slowly deteriorating into a pile of bones over four year span. He was very brave but could not deal with his own bodily changes. It affected his self image and broke my heart from which I cannot recover. No matter how much I told him he looked perfect in my eyes  any way he was and that I did not love him for his physical self alone, he could not grasp it. I am sure he would have loved me just the way I did him if the situation had been reversed. Don’t know if I could have grasped his love for me in that situation. All I know is, your words ring true. “The first casualty of the mistake is our love for ourselves, the precondition, the very root of giving and getting love” I realize that sometimes giving love is easier than actually receiving it. The paradox of life. I miss him very much and wish even today, i could have helped him just accept himself just the way he was. We find reasons to take responsibility all the time and after clearly spending four years of my life taking care of him in every way possible, I feel defeated that I could not help him love himself in spite of all I attempted to give him. 


The specific lines that moved me were, first: Don’t know if I could have grasped his love for me in that situation.

These words would not have resonated with me if I hadn’t experience the following the night before. The right side of my head, down my ear and into my jaw was hurting again last night, and being a hypochondriac I thought the worst, that I had a tumor, that half my face would have to be removed and I would be the Woman with Half a Face. How would I cover half my face, to shield others from what I consider a ‘horrible sight’, and shield myself from their curiosity/pity/horror/derision? Going through all the scenarios in my mind I knew only one thing for certain: that in such an eventuality I would withdraw from the world (yes, even more than I have already done), perhaps even from Payson who I would not want to straddle with a hunch back of Notre Dame, a smeeve, a golum, an ET, etc.  

Again, in Nirmala’s wise words, there are many circumstances in which giving love is easier than actually receiving it.

There are things in things in life one cannot transcend, that matter so deeply that one chooses to live in the sewers, like the Phantom of the Opera, or even annihilation. Some events and internal circumstances are simply so painful that one comes up against one’s weak and helpless human core, the existential abyss upon which we are so precariously perched, as on a bubble.

This is a subject worth exploring since I am coming up upon the 20th death anniversary of Donald Dean Powell (1946 — 1983), my late husband, who destroyed himself 20 years ago on August 18th. He was not deformed physically, but had come up against, repeatedly, what he considered his ‘failure,’ something he couldn’t live with.

There are no panaceas to pain. The closest I come to a remedy for myself is this: don’t shun it, feel it, embrace it, and it will pass (to recur again, in which case the process has to be repeated again) and leave behind a sadness that can only enrich us, for the recipe of life requires a measure of tears. As Nirmala said in another email: I am just happy that your words have allowed me to openly grieve this aspect of loosing my beloved Steve.

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