Thursday, June 14, 2007

Another One of Those Weeks

When it rains it pours, right? Here we are, planning a move to a new state, trying to get my mom's deck built, planning for Michele's sister's wedding, and trying to tie up all the loose ends here, visiting places we'll miss and such--and Michele's aunt dies.

It's really sad, to be honest. I didn't know Carol well--hadn't met her more than a few times--but she'd treated me well. I'll take on the obnoxiously faux-somber tones of a TV anchor: "She lost a courageous battle with cancer." In truth, she was kicking ass and taking names. I lost track of the number of times we were told she had two weeks to a month to live. She kept on going and kept her sense of humor to the end. It's times like this when I think cancer will get us all.

I feel awkward at times like this, because my attitude toward death is way too cavalier for most people. It began as a defense mechanism, starting when I was told my dad's cancer was terminal in the spring of 1988. I was just about to graduate from high school, and I wasn't even human yet. When most people start really forming an idea of what their life would be I was envisioning the end: we're all gonna die. All of us. No exceptions.

So I started making jokes about death, about cancer. I started sneering at people who got emotional over death, and especially at the clich├ęs and euphemisms that surrounded it. That they're "in a better place." That they've "passed on" or "passed away." The worst, though was that they were "lost." "I lost my mother to cancer." "He was lost in the Battle of the Bulge." It made me crazy. "Lost" implies either unknown physical location or the unsuccessful completion of a contest. Describing death as either trivializes our end and characterizes people as possessions. I've been fanatical about this. Most of it comes from the pain of my father's death when I was eighteen, but it's been fed by other deaths: my mom's dad on Christmas Eve, 1994; my aunt Mary in April, 1995; my dad's dad in 1997; my grandmother in 2000. My aunts Jean and Judy. Since Michele and I started dating her grandmother died, and now her Uncle Jim and Aunt Carol within six months of each other. I feel like the angel of death. These people were lost? No. We aren't that careless.

But death doesn't scare me. It doesn't even strike me as a bad thing. We get our hundred years or less to do with what we want and then we're forced to move on. Out of the pool. In the words of the Dream Theater song, "Every breath brings me one less till my last." In fifty years nobody will remember my grandparents, and in a hundred years nobody will remember me. That's the way it goes for 99% of humanity.

It still doesn't make this weekend any less sad. My mother-in-law, Carol's sister, is distraught. I've seen a lot of tears from stoic people this week. I can't let my robotic detatchment allow me to hurt others who might feel some human pain. Funerals aren't for the dead, after all. They're for those left behind. The conscious ones who can still cry. And laugh, and shake our heads.

I liked Carol, as little as I knew her.

Now we'll go through the wake/funeral/grief cycle. Eventually we'll get back to planning the big move, and the deck will get finished, and maybe I'll find work in Oklahoma. That would be nice. And life will go on, and we'll remember the dead from time to time, less as time goes on, and we'll figure it all out.

Because that's life.


dchmielewski said...

I have been ridiculously fortunate not to have lost anyone in my own family since my greatgrandmother died when I was 5. Its coming. I know its coming sooner rather than later, and it'll be the first time as an adult that I will have to deal with the death of someone reasonably close to me.

Apparently, you have been getting all of my deaths. You can have them by the way, but in reality I don't wish them on anyone, inevitable or not.

I will honor your desire not to have the word "loss" used and just say that I am sorry to hear that someone close to Michelle died. Hopefully it won't happen again for either of you for a very long time.

Jason said...

I feel like a whiny bitch just to have posted that. There are people seeing worse even now, though I can only operate because I ignore it.

I guess the reason I have a lot of people near me who die is that I know a lot of people.

But I hope the opposite isn't true.