I told my father recently, I had an ever-present fear that either he or my mother would die of a heart attack. As a child, as you get older and your parents get older, you realise that this will eventually happen.
It is a morbid topic but it's a rational one - as these things are inevitable. But what is one to do about it?
I've been studying about market economies recently, and in the forefront of my mind is the definition of the value of a commodity in markets. I'm certainly not comparing my parents to commodities, though like commodities they appear momentarily only to have a value when it can be lost (or gained). To this end, 'possession' generally is a trait/requirement of value.
Before its it lost forever, we may attempt to enjoy and embellish the time we have with it to fully realise it's value or attempt to improve it. It true that near the upcoming end(if you have the luxury of time), the beginning is remembered quite vaguely but valued most highly and all which isn't about the end, too is valued highly. This makes the end appear to be the destroyer of value.
Life is not a commodity but it has some similar characteristics when its lost.
Moving towards the inevitable end, you think about the value that is to cease to exist - in this case, a parent's life and in the end, that is surely it has ended.
The first expression of these events is that of sadness. Not so much that they will die because the point of death is painless but the sadness is actually more the feeling of your own unfulfilment, of a certain untimely unfulfilment which brought about by the end. This is the essence, I think of the sadness one feels. In this way its easy to be angry about the end or those involved in it.
In most cases generally, not specifically thinking about death, a physical loss of any kind is usually sad or negative and obtaining any 'thing' is usually uplifting, like a birth. If life is seen as an object, this makes death(it's loss) a similar sad experience.
I think this physical loss of a loved one, reminds us of any physical loss of an object and this is why I think the feelings we feel around the loss of life is similar as the loss of an object.
That said, life is not an object...and I feel there is a different way to reason about its loss than one should about the loss of a physical object.
Losing generally, it seems, questions how we see the value that possession we once possessed, physical or otherwise such as life. Our psyche seems to automatically call for a re-evaluation of that value, which is now lost or imminently to be lost(if we are predicting a loss). This need for re-evaluation of its value is a cruel device because it appears to us that that which we valued, we didn't value it enough. The truth of the matter is, that whatever value you had for it was what it was, nothing less and nothing more. If you went back in time, that value would still be the same - its frozen in time. It remains that which it was, in the very least and it was satisfactory then, as it now, in the very least. This is what the cruel re-evaluation prompts you to forget. Sadness makes one miss this viewpoint.
It might be more valuable now but the value then is unchanged. You are faithful to that value then as you are in the very least, to it now.
That being said, this re-evaluation of value now at its end, can give us the impression that we can make it more valuable for that time it existed in the past. It cannot, we cannot. We can perhaps make it more valuable now and moving forward but we cannot change the past's representation of its value. A child's love for a parent of a parent's love for a child is that which it was when it was.
Your view of its value then is set in time forever. As time changes, the fact of the value at that time remains that value at that time. Time cannot change it. You remain faithful to that idea then as you do now, if not more now.
This should be a comfort because you cannot provide more value to it at the time it existed that it had when it existed. You can only give it more value to it in the now since it existed. You cannot regret that you cannot change the truth.
The future is the only opportunity to give it more value, you cannot change its value in the past, it is what it was. In this way, the future is the only way to realise it with increasing value, the only way to celebrate it.
Are you sad because you think you can change the value you feel now, and change the past increase its value to when it existed. You cannot. To repeat myself, It was as valuable then as it is now, and perhaps now more so now but it can never be the value that you now feel it perhaps should be retrospectively. It will always be what it was.
The sadness I think is the manifestation that you think it should but you cannot make it so. This sadness includes regret:
Perhaps regret that you couldn't make their experiences richer and more enjoyable.
Regret that you couldn't make them laugh more.
Regret that you couldn't make them aware that they were fundamentally important to you and that you hope that this makes them enjoy this thought if they can.
But in many cases these things can be rectified and reasoned about in a way loss of a physical object cannot and can help acclimatise to the sadness and perhaps even rationalise about in a satisfactory way such that the sadness is not as penetrating and hurtful. Rationalising these regrets and seeing that perhaps some things were not possible and should not be regretted with such force that otherwise you would do.
It stems essentially, I think, again, less form the loss of a life, but more from the uncertainty you have in not fully knowing if they know how influential and important they have been to your life. Its less about physical loss. Reasoning about these things can help as mentioned above, I think...
If you are yet to lose something, the time to make a fulfilment of that uncertainty is perceived to be quickly running out. When you lose something suddenly, that it already has. This is a sadness of sorts too. But while you cannot change the past, you can reason about it and this can make you happier about it - or at least reason about it better.
I think I parent will always know that its child feels inherent value its parent. This is certain, as a bear cub looks to its parent, so a parent knows of its value to the child. Some comfort can perhaps gain from this.
But does a child know how its own existence fulfils a parent? This is the unknown and uncertainty, a child will seek when sensing the end of a parent's life.
In this way, if your parents understand their value to you and that they have embellished your existence, then the physical loss is lessened or perhaps not even important and a child can take this as some comfort at the time of the death of a parent.
What can be done in the time between life and the near death is to either make a parent's worth to a child and then make a parent's life happier until they die.
What it comes down to I think, is that you need the object of your value to realise its own value to you, and somehow this is your way of giving back to it - it somehow gives it a meaning - the meaning it has for you.
It's not about the value coming to an end, it never comes to an end, it persists in your psyche and only grows in value with time. This is perhaps how one copes with the death of a loved one, particularly a parent?
Perhaps we are on our own journeys rationalising the past in the present and reasoning about the future.
Perhaps we really only understand value at the end, or more likely, perhaps we realise it while we're living while thinking about the past.