Image courtesy of Paul Graham Morris. Licensed under CC BY SA 2.0.
My mother died this week. I have been trying to come up with an appropriate response to this that I might post on the blog, but of course there isn’t one. It’s awful. I will probably fail to feel the weight of its awfulness until a few months or years from now. That is–I am told–the course of these things. Thankfully I do not know from firsthand experience prior to this point.
Cancer is an awful disease, and at my mother’s insistence I refuse to categorize her experience with it as a battle, though research and anecdata both tell me that this is the Done Thing. It was a bareknuckle fight with an asshole of a disease.
I try to avoid cursing on the blog in general, but really, fuck biliary cancer.
I was trying to describe my feelings about this to a friend this past week. My friends have been lovely through this whole ordeal, but particularly in the past week. But, as they visit, I feel like I should be Appropriately Mournful. Wearing black, stoically refusing to cry, staring into the distance blankly.
Certainly, sometimes I am like that. But generally speaking, I’m not. I have been going about my business. Today I went on a cemetery tour, and tried to go to a Shakespeare performance. I did not weep during either of these things. In the middle of them, I ate a catfish po’boy.
The best way that I can describe it is with an analogy from 8th grade earth science. It is as follows: there is a difference between climate and weather. Climate is the overall condition of a place, whereas weather is the immediate happenings. So, for example, Georgia is a temperate climate–this does not invalidate the fact that the weather was crummy today, and my Shakespeare in the Park performance was rained out. The weather can go against the general climate. Atlanta can have a rainy May.
And in this situation, my grief is the climate. It is there in the background, and will probably continue to be there for a few months, or a year, or the rest of my life. But the weather is pretty variable–and generally cheery. I can’t be overwhelmed with sadness all the time, because sometimes I have to keep it together and go grocery shopping. If my climate and my weather merged, I would lose my mind. And I don’t want to do that. Sometimes I just need to try to go see a play or decorate my new apartment or take a nap.
So, that’s where I am right now. No doubt it will vary greatly over the next few months–how, I can’t predict, since I was always awful at meteorology.
So, no sitting shiva for you? I love everything you have to say, be it bear dogs blogs or the f*** cancer blog. You remind me of your mom in a lot of ways and because of that I love you, even if that seems weird or creepy. I have nothing comforting to say, but I know this sucks. My mom died prematurely and although I was older and stuff, it hits you at the strangest and sometimes most inappropriate times.
Interesting. I’ve found this myself. I feel weird about laughing, or seeing Iron Man, or I even played a gig on Friday–thinking I should catch myself and be appropriate. I really like the analogy of climate. I imagine your mom would have liked it as well–the idea that one can’t be despondent like in Gothic romances and all back-of-wrist-to-forehead on the fainting couch all the time. But it’s always there. I’m sorry that it is, but it feels good and right that it is as well. You write so well. Thanks for putting this into words.
Emily – I love your analogy so much. And you are so right, your weather will change when you least expect it – good to bad, bad to good, and back again. Always remember, no matter the weather or the climate, you are surrounded both near and far by people who love you and are willing to be your shelter in the storm. Sadness and grief isn’t the only way to show your love for someone you’ve lost.
Thanks for being exactly you in this moment. This post is perfect. Just be and share as much of that experience as you want. Living your life and not crying while buying groceries is the ticket but sometimes you might cry over toast and that is okay too.
My name is Tatiana and I worked with your mom for 3.5 years in Winship.
I just wanted to let you know that I love your mom dearly. I miss her so much! She is the rare kind of people, so genuinely nice..
I lost my dad in December 2012, he was only 65, and he died unexpectedly from the cardiac arrest..
I felt exactly the same… Of course, I am older…
I am praying for your family..
You can email me if you need anything, or if you want to talk, or need a friend…
It would be an honor for me to be a part of your and Elena’s life..
Like burned toast or something. Or, like, it’s moldy, or just that you have no toast.
I have no idea if this is a quote or in response to something or whatever, but I saw it and just cracked up. So there’s that.
Oh good. I was trying to play off Megan’s comment. Almost deleted, but glad you cracked up.
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Your Mom, Emily, like my parents a while ago, never made a point of dying. It was just part of life. They all made it easy for me to accept their death and I think that is the greatest gift anybody dying can give to those left behind. Showing us that death may suck, but it is what it is. But also allowing us to, while remembering them with love, go on with our daily lives. She wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Your Mom was an extraordinary woman and friend and I am so proud of her that an award was established in her name. What better way to be remembered?
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