The Unbearable Lightness of Being


It is almost unbearable. It is unbearable and yet we have no choice but to bare it. I woke this morning, like almost all of my dearest friends and neighbors, and thought “it simply cannot be, all of that could not have been real.”

But it was, and it is, and this is one of those times that we come together, that we circle the wagons and pull all those close to us even closer and we hang on tight through the storm so that we don’t lose anyone else. I am so proud of this city, because the love and compassion I was part of yesterday in Bangor, Maine was something rare, and powerful, and something that wouldn’t have happened in many other places.

If you didn’t know either of the two people who died this week from Bangor, you missed out on something wonderful, something amazing, because I don’t know that there are two purer, kinder souls left.

I did not know Phill well, but my children did, and my friends did and we are all connected in this community in an incredible way. Even if you are new to town, you won’t spend long in the downtown community without being adopted in. We lost a treasure in the man who was known not only for being the bouncer who sat in front of Paddy Murphy’s and read great books, but as someone who talked to everyone, treated everyone kindly, and who loved his daughter more than life itself.

The loss for my family is a beautiful, intelligent, amazing young woman named Roxanne. She started out as one of my daughter’s very best friends in high school, and eventually she became friends with our entire family. She was one of my extra children, you know those kids that are friends with your kids and spend so much time at your house they start to call you Mom, and like several of my children’s friends, her nickname for me was “Mom Fo” and I can’t even type that without hearing her say it.

“She loved to walk down the street with a book under her arm.”

Like so many of us, I cannot think of her without thinking of her laugh, without thinking of her fabulous outfits and that silly floppy hat she recently bought and wore all around town. I cannot think of her without imagining her smoking outside of Paddy Murphy’s, or hearing her talk about getting through school, or marrying the love of her life.

I cannot think of her without seeing the tattoo of a little hat on her arm, because she so loved the book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” If you are unfamiliar, the book is a meaning of life story, and talks about the pain of love, the burden of love, as being what truly gives our lives meaning. Without that burden to anchor us, what would truly be unbearable is the lightness of having no connection at all with our fellow human beings. Of course there are many interpretations of this book but today, for me, this book, this quote, felt like the appropriate tribute.

“The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.”

The burden that we feel at this moment, the grief that so many feel crushed beneath, is what gives our lives meaning. It means we knew someone worth knowing, it means we experienced love and friendship worth experiencing. It means the lives of those lost meant something, to so many. The heavier burden would have been never knowing them. The lightness of being one of the people unaffected by this tragedy would have been worse. The true loss would have been if the world had never known them, had never been loved by them.

“For there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”

This pain is heavy. But we will bare this burden, and we will bare it together because it means we knew you, it means we loved you; it means you loved us, and that, even for a brief time, was worth it.

All quotes from Milan Kundera


Karen Foley

About Karen Foley

Karen Foley, has successfully been writing her blog for the BDN since May 2011. By successful, she means a few people read it, and she has not been sued, stalked or fired since starting it.