Friday, July 09, 2004

My Life Without Me

Writing about today is never the same if I do it tomorrow, or any other day besides this one. Never again will I feel the sweet pain of the sad movie I just saw, just so. “My Life Without Me”—a young mother of two girls, aged 4 and 6, dies a swift but fully alive death of ovarian cancer. I have often tried to imagine my mother as the little girl who lost her mother. It is inconceivably sad to me, for to me my mother not only gave me life: she is my life, in so many respects. Not having her would be like—well, I guess something like not having a father. But my grief was reversed—I mourned his loss and then he entered my life. What a stsrange way to have a relationship with someone. Kind of like the way Alzheimer’s takes away the life you’ve lived in reverse, ultimately rendering you back to infancy, without memory or identity or any sense of time but the now.

It never occurred to me before seeing this movie what a tragedy mourning is. People die every day whose deaths are never fully accepted. Take my grandmother Gertrude—her death altered the course of my mother’s life, her identity, her personality, everything about her; and even though she was barely old enough to form permanent memories, she still carries the burden of grief to this day. In fact, Trudy’s legacy has lived on through me, her second granddaughter, even though we missed each other in this world by thirty years. I wonder what she was like, and although I’ve never actually sleep dreamed of her that I can remember, in my thought dreams she helps to train me as a healer—she is the wise medicine woman elder that my mother is becoming. See, we always turn into our parents, no matter what.

So what I started to say in the last paragraph is that we the living rarely seem to consider what the dead would have actually wanted us to do with their deaths. Of course, when we think about our own deaths, we hope that they will make some impact on the world; it’s no use living if our deaths make no difference to anyone. But after the initial shock—who wants a sad funeral? Sure, it would be sad, but that’s no reason not to laugh. Laughing doesn’t clash with anything, even funerals. Well, maybe sometimes sex, but I’m not suggesting that anyone have sex at my funeral. Unless it’s the best way they can think of to celebrate my life. I can’t imagine anyone I know who would think that. Maybe I should find new friends. Or maybe not. Anyway, I see a big garden filled with bright flowers and white tableclothed tables bearing all of my favorite foods: teriyaki tempeh, steaming bowls of fresh green broccoli and the sweetest yellow Jersey corn-on-the-cob, ice cream sundae stations with mountains of the purest whipped cream, olives like they have in tubs at the supermarket deli bars, a felafel stand straight from Israel with all the good toppings like pickles and peppers and hot sauce….well, you get the idea. Then inside is a huge circular room plastered with pictures of my life, stories, my possessions. And they’re not just for the looking. People can take them, so they have something to remember me by if I haven’t given them something already. My eulogy…you know, the saddest thing about dying when you’re very old is that most of the important people in your life have already gone before you. Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing to have a very small funeral without much todo. Maybe it means that you’ve already directly impacted the world and—no wait, many people still keep on making a difference up to the last breath, no matter how old they are. Ah, whatever, this is useless musing. I should probably stop wallowing in all this death and go to the party with Gretchen and Dave. As I’ve been trying to say in spite of my compulsive tangentalizing, those who have died don’t wish us to stop living just because they have. If anything, we must now live twice as hard, to make up for their lost time. Soon, everyone could be living fully expressed, juicy lives to the max, with infinite love and laughter, and no regrets.

Amy was the girl I saw today who is deathly afraid of menstruation. She hates it so much she has dieted and exercised her way to amenorrhea for all but her first year of puberty, when PMS hit her like a punch in the face and she couldn’t handle the changes. I can’t tell if she wishes she were a boy, or a perpetual child, or an alien who lived on a planet where women didn’t menstruate. Yet so many of her thought processes and feelings resonated with me—sometimes I wonder.

It’s so sad for Amy. So in control, yet helpless against the driving forces of nature and her body. Does she need someone to get inside her world and understand her, or does she need to be smacked into reality and given a wake up call that she’s acting like an idiot and missing out on life?

At the other end, I met Mrs. Gaudrou, who had a heart attack on Monday night. She has lived 73 years, yet she still hasn’t found healthy ways to cope with her stress. If I live that long I hope by then I’ll be tickled pink and joyful all the time, or at least happily sad. No need for stress after all that living. I’ll wear purple every day, like they say in the poem. And I’ll never step foot in a hospital, unless they’ve gotten much better than they are now and have started serving massages and whipped cream as part of standard care.


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