A friend once gave me the book Something Under the Bed is Drooling, a Calvin and Hobbes compilation, by Bill Watterson.
Calvin and Hobbes was an extremely popular newspaper comic strip that ran from the mid-’80s to mid-’90s. It follows the adventures of six-year-old Calvin and his tiger Hobbes, a stuffed toy that comes to life when nobody but Calvin is around.
Calvin is the quintessential ‘handful’ child, with a vivid imagination, boundless energy, and a way of looking at the world that often leaves those around him, like his parents and his classmate Susie, stunned at his weirdness. But while the stories told in Calvin and Hobbes are usually quite goofy in nature, from time to time it slips into real poignancy.
It’s one of those stories from which today’s quote comes. (The series can be found here on the GoComics website.) In it, Calvin (and Hobbes) find an injured baby raccoon. Calvin gets his mother, who places the raccoon in a shoe box with a towel and leaves it in the garage with some food and water. In the morning, Calvin rushes to his father to see how the raccoon is doing, only to find out it has died during the night. As Calvin cries, his father tries to comfort him, and Calvin puts his grief into words.
I’m crying because out there he’s gone, but he’s not gone inside me.
It’s perfect, and it breaks my heart every time. Because it’s true that we carry those we have lost inside of us for the rest of our lives. Now, that can be a double-edged sword – as an abuse survivor, I struggle with my father’s presence rearing its ugly head in my life, even though he’s been dead for over 20 years. But when it’s someone with whom we had a positive, loving relationship?
As time goes on and the edges of grief soften, we realize that, although we’ll never see our loved one on the outside again, they were so precious that we’ll carry them inside of us forever. Then grief becomes almost a comfort, giving a sense of connection and constancy – a proof that, as we move through a difficult world, we’re never really alone.
Even when we are.
To see previous posts in my Quotes series, click here.