little sarah Big World

Tag: death

Meaning

It’s not every day in the First World that you wake up knowing for certain that you’re going to see a dead body. And I was thinking about that, last Friday, in the shower. While I got ready for your mother’s funeral.

I know we joked about it, made light of the situation, maybe even more than most would. It’s just that she wasn’t that type of lady, you know? Not the type for us to go into hysterics over, not a warm and compassionate person. And I didn’t know her as much more than just…your mom.

But you loved her. You love her so much, of course you do. And I should have known that. I should have said something better.

Instead I said I was really sorry, and you said “Thank you.” And you said “It’s okay.”

Anyways, I didn’t even get a good look at the body, so busy was I trying to find a place to warm up, but it’s probably for the best. See, I don’t believe in embalming. I prefer my deceased to look, well, dead. Gone, expired. But you don’t know that, because that’s not the type of thing you say to a 26-year-old planning her only parent’s funeral. You just say “Of course I’ll come, of course I’ll play the violin.” And try not to cry when you see the oldest sister’s broken, wet face.

I should have said something, when I got up to play, but instead I made some comment about…wearing heels, was it? Some silly little thing. Then, later, I thought of all the things I could have said. And what I wanted to say was:

“I didn’t know Linda very well, I only knew her as my best friend’s mom, and to tell the truth I was always a little scared of her. I think we all were. But really I was scared of most people’s parents, because they saw me as a bad influence. And I don’t think Linda ever saw me that way. She always welcomed me without much fuss, if I wanted to stay for dinner, or if I wanted to have a sleepover. I never felt out of place in her home. I’m sorry that life was so hard for Linda, especially these last few painful years, and I know that now she’s not in any pain. I dedicate this song to her.”

But I didn’t say that. I just played my violin, and nobody clapped at the end, because I guess that’s how it’s done at a funeral.

And you said so much, and so well. You made everyone laugh, and you made me bawl silently, and you told stories that I never heard, and you gave so much life and depth to your mother with your honest words. It was a side of you I’d never seen before, and all I could think of was how amazing you are, and how strong, and how lucky I am to have you as a friend.

You know, when I came back from Spain, I was plagued with anxiety and regret. I thought I’d made the wrong choice, yet again, and I almost couldn’t live with it. I kept searching for a sign, a reason that would justify my decision, where I could look and point and say “See? There. That’s why I had to come back. It was meant to happen this way.”

But instead I grew, and grew up, and I don’t think like that anymore. I don’t think that things happen for a reason, that they’re meant to be one way or another. I just try to do my best, to accept the decisions I make and deal with the way things are.

So I can’t comfort you the way the others did, can’t tell you that your mother is in heaven, because I don’t believe that. I have no Celestial Kingdom to offer you, no promises, no answers. I do not think that I was meant to come home from Spain so that I could be there for your mother’s funeral.

But for the first time since coming home, I’m glad I did.

Cemetery Stroll

…with Finn, the baby. He loves going out in the stroller, cooing and singing the whole time, but not interested in interaction. In a reverie all his own, I suppose. As am I.

Salt Lake Monument & The Salt Lake City Cemetery:

There’s something so serene about a graveyard, once you get past the whole Death thing.

Or maybe because of it.

Instant Death

Do you ever say goodbye to someone and wonder if these will be the last words you’ll ever exchange with them? I don’t, really, anymore, but I used to be mildly obsessed with the thought. Every time I said goodbye or goodnight to my high school boyfriend, even on the phone, I would always make sure to tell him I loved him, that I missed him, and for him to be safe. It was like a superstition, a ritualistic vestige of childhood, like repeating “Now I lay me down to sleep…” every night before bed.

These days I don’t dwell on the possibility of an untimely death for myself or the person to whom I’m bidding adieu, unless maybe I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again. But this morning I thought of it, when my mom dropped me off at work, on her way to her own job.

She said, “That house sure looks meth-a-licious.”

True story.

Death and the Short Story

Recently I saw 127 Hours, and it was amazing. It was one of the most exciting, interesting, inspiring, original movies I’ve seen in a long time. And I told people this. And they were unimpressed. Unmoved. Completely unmotivated to see the movie.

So, now that I’ve read this book–Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman–that was a fascinating, intelligent, creative, and telling exploration of humankind in life, as well as death, I just feel like I’m not going to be able to convince a single soul to read it. I just really don’t think so.

Anyways, selling points: I only knew to even look for this book because it was mentioned in a New York Times Magazine article. That’s a trusted source, right? (Plus props to me for “doing my homework” and following up on a thing). Also: short stories! So it makes for a good bus/subway/lunch-for-one read. Here’s a tasty preview:

“In this part of the afterlife, you imagine something analogous to your Earthly life, and the thought is blissful: a life where episodes are split into tiny swallowable pieces, where moments do not endure, where one experiences the joy of jumping from one event to the next like a child hopping from spot to spot on the burning sand.” (from Sum)

“The Collectors construct lives of parametric experiments: men and women who adhere well but are shot past one another too briefly–brushing by in a library, passing on the step of a city bus, wondering just for a moment.” (from Adhesion)

“When we’re in a human body, we don’t care about universal collapse–instead, we care only about a meeting of the eyes, a glimpse of bare flesh, the caressing tones of a loved voice, joy, love, light, the orientation of a house plant, the shade of a paint stroke, the arrangement of hair.” (from Angst)

“They watch how each human driver aims for his own private piece of the city, isolated from neighbors by layers of glass and steel. Some of the humans reach out to make cell phone contact with a single friend out of the innumerable hordes. And gazing out over the steering wheel, each human feels the intensities of joy and grief as though his were the only real examples in the world.” (from Pantheon)

“In the afterlife, in the warm company of His accidental subjects, God now settles in comfortably, like a grandfather who looks down the long holiday table at his progeny, feeling proud, somehow responsible, and a little surprised.” (from Seed)

David Eagleman

“We are the moment of least facility for the atoms. And in this form, they find themselves longing to ascend mountains, wander the seas, and conquer the air, seeking to recapture the limitlessness they once knew.” (from Search)