Category Archives: Death & dying

Here yesterday, gone today

I went to bed last night with one reality and woke up this morning with another. I’m not exactly sure at what moment it changed. Was I sleeping soundly? Was it one of the times I was awake, looking at the clock for an unknown reason? I have this need to know the moment, even though really, it doesn’t matter.

How does one tell young tweens, who are still figuring out their own ways of solving problems, not ever to use the problem-solving method their role model chose? It’s easy to tell them, I suppose, but so hard to make words speak louder than such a decisive deed.

I understand sadness and despair. I do NOT understand myopic self-centeredness that cannot take into account one’s influence and impact on others.

I am feeling such a swirl. Anger, anger, anger, sadness, disbelief, compassion, shock, more anger.

Those stupid stages of grieving.

I’ve got to get myself together so I can be of service to others more directly affected.

(Many hugs to my Internet friends. Your emails, calls and Tweets have meant so much today.)

Book Tour: Water for Elephants

I actually thought Lemonade for the Elephant would be a better title, but maybe that’s why Sara Gruen is a bestselling novelist and I am one of her readers.

This is my 7th book tour with the Barren Bi+ches, but my 1st for a non-IF-related book. I found it much harder to find a focus and more difficult to develop questions. With the other books, I had a sense for what my fellow readers would think in certain situations. But with Water for Elephants, there was no known common ground. No shared focal point. I felt like a chicken let out of the coop onto the big open range.

Or maybe like a camel let out of a train car after a long Joliet-to-Providence run.

What is your favorite circus related memory?
I have only one circus-related memory and it’s not a good one. My parents had taken us to the Greeley Stampede (cross between a circus and a carnival) with my parents one summer when I was about 11. Through the course of the day I ate a few pickles. And later on some cantaloupe.

It was stiflingly hot. After we saw the animals, my sisters and I rode the Tilt-a-Whirl, our favorite ride. Something happened, though, after we got off the ride. Gurgling and burbling, the contents of my stomach were churning about and causing me pain and nausea.

I found a trashcan, topped with rotting-in-the-heat cotton candy, just in time to hurl.

It was decades before I could eat pickles or cantaloupe or cotton candy again.

Are you still with me? The answers get better, I promise. (At least I’ve given you low-hanging fruit [ahem] on which to comment.)

Looking at himself in the mirror, the old Jacob tries “to see beyond the sagging flesh.” But he claims, “It’s no good….I can’t find myself anymore. When did I stop being me?” How would you answer that question for yourself?
I’m not even halfway to Jacob’s age, but already I wonder, at times, where the 19 year-old Lori went. Or the 24 year-old Lori. Or the 37-year old Lori.

But I don’t feel I have ever stopped being me. If anything, I continually become more Me.

It seems like you go through the first part of your life adding to yourself. Trying on. Acquiring.

And the last part of your life is spent shedding. Discerning. And finally, losing. This part of Elder Jacob’s viewpoint brought a little panic to my innards. Like Jacob, I fear losing my stuff, my loves, my well- functioning body, control of my destiny.

Something that struck me about this book in particular was the rich, descriptive way the author handled Jacob as an elderly man. His frustration was so apparent, his physical manifestation so perfectly described, that of all of the elements of this book Jacob the Elderly is what stays with me. You had the sense that Jacob didn’t foresee his latter years being the way they were, and his almost “ride off into the sunset” ending perhaps what he had envisaged for his end. Do you think about what’s at the end of the road someday? When you think about it, what do you see for yourself?

Did you read A Prayer for Owen Meany? (spoiler alert: don’t read this paragraph if you plan to read the book). The premise of being able to see, in a premonition, your own tombstone both fascinates and frightens me. Would YOU want to know the date of your death?

Or the manner?

I once volunteered for Hospice. As part of the training, we had to write about our own death.

It was impossible for me. Try as I might, I could not come up with anything except the super-predictable and bland ending where I die in my sleep.

Let it be so. Let me be the picture of health until then. And let me have helped my children raise their children to adulthood.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list here.

One of my stupider moments

Recently I wrote about my own death (in case you’re new to my blog, I am not dying at a faster clip than anyone else, as far as I know).

Did you ever notice how people are so squeamish about death? Until the last six or seven decades, I imagine that death was not so hidden. During agricultural times, I think we were used to farm animals dying and to dressing our own dead, to having their remains sit in the parlor downstairs until we marched them in a pine box to the family plot in the community cemetery. Perhaps death wasn’t such a spook then.

Now, we are so unfamiliar with death that we don’t know how to process it when it inevitably comes into our lives. I try to think about it now and then. To at least be unafraid of my own thanatal thoughts when they come up.

Witness the lagoon of quicksand that swallows me when I take this stand with my children.

The other day in the car, Tessa asked if we could visit the grave site of my grandma, GG (for “great grandma”). I explained that GG was buried in another part of the state and that it was too far to go to today. Reed then asked where I would be buried.

I haven’t shied away from difficult subjects before (such as adoption and birth). Matter of factly, and answering only the question that was asked, I said that I didn’t want to be buried. Can you see where this is going?

Tessa said, “Then what will happen to you, Mommy?” I explained that cremation was another way to deal with a body after a spirit no longer needs it. “What’s carmation?” asked Reed.I explained as best I could. And can I just say that I didn’t know that their school had had a fire drill earlier that week?

The back seat freak-fest began. The Wailing. The Gnashing of Primary Teeth. “No! Mommy! I don’t want you to burn!” “Don’t burn up, Mommy!” “Mommy! PROMISE US YOU WON’T BE CARMATIONED!!!”

I had to pull over.

Lest you ever find yourself in a similar situation, take it from me. Don’t try logic. Don’t say, “But then you won’t have to go ANYwhere to visit me — I’ll be wherever you want me to.” Don’t try metaphysics, like “Once my spirit is gone, I won’t need my body anyway.” Don’t lie to them by promising something you have no intention of doing (thankfully I stopped short of that).

And even I knew not to try “I’d rather be quick-fried to a crackly crunch than be digested by worms and maggots.”

Yup, I’m great at knowing what NOT to say. But I can’t tell you what TO say. Please, YOU tell ME. Because it’s bound to come up again.

The best I could come up with was my most cheerful, “So! What shall we have for dinner tonight — pizza or chicken nuggets?”