Apr 28, 2010

On the loss of sleep and the sleep of loss

All Nighters is a collection of vignettes at the NY Times site on the subject of insomnia. The articles in this section are often thought-provoking, and the ailment seems to afflict too many people than seems tolerable.

Fortunately, I don't suffer from sleeplessness, but have had fleeting brushes with it during periods of illness. Those among us who sleep like careless infants perhaps do not know how fortunate they are. The whole cliché of realising what we have taken for granted when it is taken away from us is of no solace if you are up at night, tossing about after having numbered the entire sheep population of New Zealand.

The latest installment in All Nighters was particularly moving. Bill Hayes, a writer (of even a book on insomnia, called Sleep Demons: An Insomniac's Memoir1), writes about losing his partner who passed away, nay 'disappeared', in his sleep. In a grave irony, Hayes, a life-long insomniac, slept through it thanks to sleeping pills.

The blog post isn't just for insomniacs - it is for anyone who has lost someone or (dare I say it?) for everyone who will. Hayes writes:

[...] it was a long time before I was able to take his pillow from his side of the bed. I did not dare. The night after he died, I found that a sliver of light from a streetlamp shone through the blinds just so and cast a single yellowy tendril across his pillow. It was the opposite of a shadow. Which is as clear a definition as I can come up with for the soul.

With morning, the light was gone, and I found the days empty and agonizing. It would take about three years for this feeling to pass — a thousand days, give or take — people who had been through this told me. As it turns out, they were right. What no one said is something I discovered on my own: A thousand days is a thousand nights is a thousand chances to dream about him.

1: Hayes has also written a book on the two men behind Gray's Anatomy, which from what little I know of it, is an interesting story.

1 comment:

Ajay said...

Heartbreaking story indeed. I've rarely seen loss expressed with that much skill.