Ian Fleming once wrote a short story titled 'Quantum of Solace', originally published in Cosmo, and collected in the For Yours Eyes Only volume. It's an idea story, the idea being that every relationship between a couple depends on a certain 'quantum of solace', amount of comfort, that each partner provides the other. If that measure of comfort falls below a certain point, the relationship is doomed.
A 23-year-old was brought into my ER last night, dead. Stayed dead, despite all efforts. Heroin overdose. If he had been found 30 minutes sooner, he might have survived, but he wasn't. The family was distraught. Cries of sorrow, anger, and regret issued from the room where they gathered around the body for a couple of hours. Public, vocal expressions of grief vary from person to person, family to family, culture to culture, but old folks usually aren't the subject of such loud and prolonged grief.
I propose there is a 'quantum of grief', a fixed amount of grieving that each of us assigns to every individual. The amount is considerable if we lose a spouse, a child, or a parent. We allot a lesser amount to more distant relatives or friends, and only a tiny amount to random strangers in the newspaper obits or on TV. That fixed amount of grief is expended, like money, until it is gone.
In the case of old folks death is often, perhaps usually, seen coming from a distance. The heart problems growing gradually worse; the cancer that is treated, but recurs; the emphysema that keeps coming back, the hospitalizations that become longer and more frequent. Each setback our parent or spouse has, we grieve a little, and we spend a little bit of that quantum of grief, so that when the final end comes there is only a little left that we need to pay out, not enough to wail and cry to the heavens. But when a young person dies it's usually unexpected, we still have that entire burden of grieving to pay out, and all our grief comes out at once in a roar and a tumult.
|Left/bottom radical is 'movement', top radical is 'buttocks', acting phonetically to express 'chase'. Thus, this character means 'to chase someone's butt'. Really. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'Pursue moving buttocks.'|