Across the universe

photo by  Margaret Durow

Spring is finally here, so when the dog and I go for a walk at night, I eschew the jacket. It’s clear, and already dark. An occasional car passes us by but other than that my thoughts are undisturbed, and they wander. I take in the night sky—walking as we do away from the house, there is very little light pollution. (Coming back is a different story.) Stars, bright and less bright, and so many beyond that, ones I can’t make out but know are out there. We are a speck. A speck on a speck. And yet, when your heart breaks, again, because your child is still dead, does not the grief, the wounded love, fill the entire Universe, coating every bit of matter and dark matter without distinction?


The First Law of Thermodynamics says that energy cannot be created or destroyed. Energy is conserved. It changes forms, but does not disappear. And every time it changes form, some of it is released as heat, the aimless random movement of molecules. The Universe, when it was born in Big Bang, was tiny and hotter than we can conceive of. It expanded quickly and violently in one giant BOOM and then kept going, though at a much slower rate. It is expanding still. Its average temperature right now is less than 3 degrees above absolute zero. Not the zero of frozen water or even the zero of the Fahrenheit scale, which is pretty damn cold. No, the absolute zero—the temperature when no heat energy remains and nothing, but nothing could be colder. Ever. In numbers, that’s -273.15˚C (or -459.67F for us Americans). The Universe is a cold-cold place. Despite all the heat of all the stars dissipating through it, the Universe is cold. And getting colder. And we are but a speck.  A speck on a speck.


I think about the love. We love them because they are our children, and the minor fact of them being dead does not trump that fundamental truth. Sure, but what happens to that love? What becomes of it?

When you love a person who is alive, when you love a living child, a partner, a parent, a friend, your love has a focal point, you direct it to that person, and most of the time you see it reflected back at you. That person is where the love goes. In my sciency brain the image is something like a little hose, shooting love in a neat parabola that lands smack dab at the person you love (gently, of course—we are not in the love-smothering business, right people?). That love, it can nurture, sustain, heal. It’s pretty flipping incredible. And you have all these little hoses, each aimed at a person you love…

If A’s hose has no A to shoot for, what happens then?


I think about the love. Nine years on, I know for sure what I suspected from the get-go—I will never stop loving him, or missing him. Love can’t be destroyed, I think. Is that another First Law? Except energy also can’t be created. Is love created? Where does it come from? In one sense, because it comes from the brain, it, like everything else the brain produces, comes from glucose we use to power the brain cells. But that’s not the real answer. What is the real answer? I don’t know, and for today that’s not even the point, so I am ok letting it sit.

The question that sticks as the pup and I turn to head home is what happens to all the love? If there is nobody for the hose to shoot for, does it spray instead? With nobody there to accept and reflect the love, does it just keep going? Like radio waves, like heat that escapes every time energy is converted from one form to another? Is that why grief is bottomless—because the hose can not be directed, because love continues to disperse?

So where does it go? And what is the unit of love, what is the love particle? At what speed do these particles travel? As they head out to the vast, cold Universe, are they merely our sad SOSes? Perhaps they are also testimonies—a tiny speck was there, yes, all the way down there, and the speck’s mother loves him still. Long after I myself am gone, perhaps these messages of my love for my son will still traverse the Universe. Perhaps.


I love you, A! Wherever you are, I hope you run into some of my tiny messengers and know that you are loved.

How have you experienced your love and grief? Where do you think the love goes?