My dad passed away last September, although ‘passed away’ sounds too ‘death-lite’ for the actual event. If you’ve never been at the bedside of someone moving on, all I can say is, it’s probably not possible to brace yourself for the experience. Try to breathe and hang in the best you can. And: when the priest visits your house after the fact and cries, even though he didn’t know the deceased, when the priest erupts in sniffles, give. Whatever you can. A final kernel of compassion. Why? Because months later you’ll feel happy that you comforted a stranger dabbing his eyes over your father while you felt like your brain was falling out of your head. Same goes for when the housecleaner arrives sobbing. And when the caregiver, one of the many caregivers, lets you know she’ll gladly take your dad’s spoons. The power in that last kernel of giving is something you will always remember, and take strength from when that picture of your dad on your refrigerator suddenly traps you for more than several minutes. I mean, you know, maybe. Maybe you will feel a certain strength as you wipe your eyes and carry on making lemonade for your son. Just maybe.
My dad passed away and familial BAU (Business As Usual) rocketed off reliable rails and my mom had a 2nd stroke and my therapist of 6 years died suddenly and mortality placed itself like a dark censorship rectangle over MY eyes, and I could not see to write. A. Word. Much less revise–which, as you know, is the path to all promising writing summits.
O Death. Your subtle (thorough) thieving, you gloved ransacker, you–jerk… But 10 months later I am emerging and there is no trick to this (unless continuing to exercise is a trick, or eating nantes carrots like they’re candy, or joining my son in enjoying his summer vacation)–I just feel like I can revise again, read a book again (even if it’s on the Kindle), watch something other than all 6 seasons of The Good Wife (Your Honor! I object!). Something like Last Tango In Halifax (because they’re all so impressively self-centered, aren’t they?). Or Enchanted April for the millionth time.
The Snow Child, A God In Ruins, Field Notes From A Catastrophe, Station Eleven, All The Light We Cannot See, The Arrivals, The Girl In The Road, The Girl on the Train, Graceling, Go Set A Watchman, Silent Spring, The Sixth Extinction, My Brilliant Friend. The Husband’s Secret, which I abandoned, so actually it doesn’t count. 1 Elin Hilderbrand. And Later Poems, Adrienne Rich–a constant-companion type of relationship with this book. From bildungsroman to dystopia to fairytales, mysteries and exceptionally eerie catastrophic scenarios (fiction and non-fiction). If there is irony in my reading frenzy, it’s not lost on me–just tucked into a deepdarkdrawer until further analysis becomes imperative. Maybe.
Over 10 months later I’m realizing that BAU is a very good state to be in and not to be taken for granted. BAU, lifted from Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes From A Catastrophe, the most frightening non-fiction book I’ve ever read.
Yours in revision and hopes for future, productive-in-a-positive-manner BAU for all,