I’ve always been a fan of Clint Eastwood, and I love several of his movies. One of my favorites, although not considered one of his best, is High Plains Drifter.
I’m not sure what it is I like so much about it. The fact that there’s a bit of supernatural. Maybe the sense of justice. Maybe just the mysteriousness of it all.
However, there’s always been one line that’s stood out to me in that movie. Oh sure, I know Eastwood is famous for his one liners in the Dirty Harry movies (Go ahead; make my day) and the more critically acclaimed Unforgiven (“We’ve all got it coming, Kid.”)
In High Plains Drifter, there’s a scene where the town is getting ready to ambush three outlaws who were sent to prison and were planning to return to seek their revenge. Eastwood is helping the townspeople prepare for that confrontation.
But right before it happens, someone asks Eastwood, “What about after? What do we do after?”
Eastwood looks at him and says, “Then you live with it.”
That line has always stayed with me. And it’s very fitting for those of us who have lost someone we loved.
What do you do after you’ve lost a spouse or family member to a terminal disease, or any cause really?
And sadly, and somberly, the answer is “then you live with it.”
I’ve had friends, male and female, who have lost their spouses to cancer, who have asked me how I got through it. What did I do to survive. I always feel for these people, I guess because I understand to a degree what it is they’re going through. And I try to comfort them the best I can. I try to find words of sympathy, words of advice. Words that will give them comfort as they deal with their loss.
But what I really want to say is, “Now you live with it.”
And living with it is not easy.
First, there are the questions that torment you. Why did this have to happen? How did this happen? Why couldn’t the doctors do more? Why . . . just why?
Often the questions turn to pity. Why did this have to happen to me? How am I supposed to go on? How am I supposed to take care of my family by myself? How . . . ?
And let’s not forget questions that revolve around guilt? What else could I have done? Why didn’t I do more? Is there anything else I could have done?
And, finally, the question/comment that starts to haunt you – this should have happened to me. Why couldn’t I have been the one to die? Because you think (no, you’re sure) that your spouse or loved one could have dealt with things better. That they deserved to live. And, conversely, you didn’t.
Then there’s the other side to losing a loved one – that side where a particular action on your part cost you the relationship.
I made that mistake recently. In a dating relationship, I had forgotten to tell my girlfriend a part of my past until we had been dating a couple of months. And then, compounded the problem be putting off telling her. Afraid that she would be disappointed in my not telling her, afraid that she would think I was hiding something from her. And afraid, most of all, of losing a loved one again.
When I finally did tell her, all those things did, in fact, happen. But her first words were that it felt like I didn’t trust her. The funny part was, it never felt like a trust issue – until she said that. Then – BOOM – the light bulb comes on. Yes, I could see how I had let my fear overcome my need to trust.
Losing someone you love because of your own actions is also bitter. Again, the questions haunt you, but the guilt is just as strong, if not stronger. You find yourself beating yourself up for mistakes you made.
But losing someone you love to a death or to a mistake you made still leaves you alone and questioning. You can pray. You can talk to friends, even seek counseling.
But most of all, it leaves you alone, with the lonely task ahead of you of now having to live with it.