Difference between death and loss


In lieu of this week’s column, I thought I would submit this story told to me by a close friend who lived for a short period in one of my all-time favorite hotels, the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, Quebec. This is according to him.

I sat in the bar of the Chateau Frontenac, Quebec, Quebec.

A small mahogany table barely touching my freshly creased gray wool trousers, and on the polished grain table-top a cup of freshly brewed coffee and a pony glass of Kahlua.

I gazed out at the frigid waters of the St. Lawrence far below me.

I had an old world feeling of comfort and privilege.

I felt a large presence just off my left shoulder before I heard the deeply mellifluous tone that asked: I wonder … ?

And I replied as I turned my head, yes?

Might I sit in that chair?

He was a handsome middle-aged man and although I found it odd, since there were several unoccupied tables in the salon. I instinctively remembered my manners and said, of course.

He sat and a burden seemed to lift from his countenance. Thank you, he said and ordered a glass of Meukow from a passing waiter.

He sighed, and we sat til the waiter returned, then he began, you may ask why I sigh.

And I said, No. I would never infringe upon your thoughts.

He studied the snifter of Cognac before saying, you seem a worldly man, tell me, and he sipped the liquid, if you would please, what is the difference between a death and a loss?

I said death was a condition of permanence and a loss could be recovered.

This gave him a moment of deep reflection and he tasted once more of his Brandy.

I wondered if he would soon respond.

There’s a man sitting behind me and to the left who told me he comes here every year on the anniversary of his wife’s death. He grieves heavily. Four years after the fact, and the pain still endures.

He took another taste of his liquor and shifted in his ornate padded armchair.

His demeanor slowly shifted from consternation to bemusement.

I lifted my pony glass and allowed an equally slight amount of liquer to whisper against my lips.

Yes? I replied, thinking there must be more.

Yes, he echoed, my wife left me twelve years ago, but I moved on and I grieve for her, not a whit.

Isn’t she dead to me?

I sipped a bit of coffee which was now at a perfect temperature.

Finally, yes, I said, I believe she is.

What is the difference between a death and a loss? What does that mean to you? Do you agree with my friend? If you had someone close to you in life — a wife, a relative, a very close friend and suddenly, for whatever reason, they were gone — does it feel like they died?

Garry Boone is a Hillsboro resident.

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