Albert Camus, the beach, and my Grandmother

For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, Camus was a French philosopher and novelist. He wrote the novel “The Plague”, which deals with a small town as they endure  a deadly and rapidly spreading epidemic. When the town is quarantined, the people must rely on one another, and some internal spark to keep their will to live.

Albert Camus had a philospophy, which he entitled “absurdism”. Basically his philosophy describes the human condition as a paradox between living in a world where life has no definitive meaning, and mankind’s constant search for a meaning. He deems this search for an impossible truth “the absurd”. He describes three possible ways that human being learn to live with this paradox. One, the creation of a religion (which he says is a denial of the truth). Two, suicide (this he says is the most ridiculous option as this is giving up).

Yeah, this philosophy sounds pretty depressing. But, it really isn’t because Camus’ third option was to find meaning for one’s self. He said that this was the only thing a person could do to live life honestly. To Camus, life is a constant struggle against a universe that is cold and uncaring for life. Therefore, we are warriors, striving in the face of hopelessness, creating meaning for ourselves. We give our lives value, and this not only gives us hope, but makes our world meaningful. So we create the tone of the world we live in. We, as human beings, decide where  the center of our universe lies and this is how we triumph.

It’s kind of cool to think of humanity as rebellion isn’t it?

Anyways, so its a pretty empowering idea, and it makes me think a lot of my Grandmother. She has gone through a lot as of recent times. A little over a year ago, my uncle died in a motorcycle accident. Driving home from work he was hit by a truck. We never saw his body. I do not wish to think on the injuries his body sustained. However, what I could not cease thinking about is how a mother should not have to attend her child’s funeral. If you have seen the agony a parent has to endure when he or she loses a child, then I am sure you would agree. It has taken my Grandmother all this time to continue life somewhat normally.

About three month’s ago, my Great Grandmother passed after a long fight with Alzheimer’s. It was merciful for her soul to be released from this world. Her life had become too painful to continue. My Grandmother had taken care of her for as long as she could, but the last few month’s of my Nana’s life were spent in a nursing home. I remember a specific moment when I walked  through the door of the nursing home and I saw my Nana, staring down at the carpet as the TV played in front of her- not seeing anything. I knew that at that moment she was stranger to our world, and that if she could find the world she would beg to be let go. I walked up to her and call out to her, but no response. I bent down in front of her, held her hand and turned her face up towards me. I just wanted her to look in my eyes, for her to know I was there with her. When I finally caught her eyes, I saw that they were milky and far away, and although they were directed at me they were seeing some far off place. This was how she was towards the end, and it tore my Grandmother apart to watch her becomes this. It tore us all apart really. But my Grandmother was in so much pain. Then my Nana stopped eating and we all knew she was just a draining hourglass. The night before my Nana passed, my Grandmother held my Nana in her arms and gave her permission to relinquish her hold on the world and go in peace. She told my Nana that we would be okay and that we would understand. My nana died the next day.   I believe my Grandmother felt personally guilty for not being able to save her Mother from this torture, and that this guilt had tainted her relationship with her Mother since the disease took hold. And although my nana’s death was expected, that did not make it easier.

My nana

 

This past Saturday, my Grandmother’s brother passed away. He had been sick with some bacterial infection, but his death was sudden. He certainly wasn’t in top health, but we were unprepared for the abrupt departure. I didn’t know him well, he lives far away, and relationship’s with distant family are always somewhat shaky. But for my Grandmother, this is a hard hit. She has lost so many loved ones with no time to find herself in-between. It seems as if just when she is gathering herself and gaining her footing, another step is falling away beneath her. I watch her struggle, and all I want is to rest her hand on my shoulder, to carry her weight for her as she makes the climb. She reminds me of Camus because she is facing some of her worst nightmares, and I see her struggle to find those reasons to cling to life. She is being tested in Camus’ philosophy, she must fight the hopelessness in her own heart as the universe berates her with loss.

575902_4961716522625_2109417899_n (2)

My Grandmother has always felt a deep connection with the sea. The reliability of the waves, the smell of the salty air, and the feel of the ageless wind, soothes and revitalizes her. Perhaps it is the feel of the sand between her toes, with the knowledge that it has been witness to the passing of many years. Or perhaps it is the vastness of the ocean as it meets with the horizon line- staring into something that immense can swallow a person up and leave them with little feelings of their own. Whatever the reason, the beach is her release. She finds something in the melodic ebb and flow of the tides that makes this world, a world that has taken her son, worth living. In these small natural moments by the ocean, world isn’t just worth living, it is beautiful. And when she is looking out on the sea, I see in her eyes that she is in tune with the universe, and that her soul too, is rebelling, and triumphing.

Some pictures I took at the beach a few days ago…
sepia beach and branch

sepia crab

to the beach in sepia

the tides

Thank you for reading! And if you have comments please don’t be shy, I would love to hear what ya’ll think!

Love, Victoria Rego

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