Saturday, August 4, 2012
It doesn't have to be sad?
[Above: A miniature design by Szymon Klimek. It is solar powered and made of zirconium and brass plate.
Dimensions 11,5x9x7cm. Goblet high 30 cm. Thanks to the blog Book of Joe for finding it.]
Friday night -
I've been thinking about the article I started reading last week in a magazine in a waiting room. It was about a home hospice nurse, and was titled "It doesn't have to be sad."
Death, they mean. Just now I logged on Facebook to say goodnight, and learned that a friend, a woman I met only once who was in kidney failure like me, has died. She did not get a transplant. She was a year younger than me. What is this feeling? Maybe it's like suddenly going cold sober. Just like that, a life gone, over. It makes my mind go to poetry, searching in my memory for the right poem. Only poetry handles death profoundly enough, and maybe music.
If you follow this blog you know that Tom's father has been slowly dying for some months now, losing a pound a week in skilled nursing care. His mother has serious loss of judgement and a very bad memory, and is scheduled for hip replacement surgery for a worn-down hip that has her confined to a wheelchair and in pain. All this, and turmoil over the financial aspects of caring for both of them, has been a great strain on the kids.
I woke up hearing Leonard Cohen's Alleluia in my memory, and understanding it a little better. Thinking about accepting death, as I often have, doesn't get me there. It seems it often takes an exact language to move me to understand something. But emotions I understand. Sad is how you feel when someone dies, isn't it? If you don't have to feel sad at a death, then what do you feel?
I know one thing you can feel: relief. This I know because long ago I read a book by Jessamyn West, a fictionalized memoir of her sister's death from cancer titled A Matter of Time. You can buy that book now on Amazon for $.01, plus shipping $3.99. These are ex-library editions. My own library, which is voted year after year the best public library in the nation, does not have it. That made me sad. For a while. But that's life: it goes on. In the words of a poem by Swinburne, "Even the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea."
Tom's parents are very old, 93 and 90. They lived to see not just grandchildren, but great-grandchildren. Jim had over 30 years in retirement. Five years ago a stroke robbed him of much of his personality and coherence.
Just today I came across the astonishing work of art and craft shone in the video above. I included it here because I love it, and tremendously admire the patience of good artists and craftspeople. As I think about it, I remember how we make art to find a certain order in life*, so I believe it fits here after all.
*I know, not every artist. But it's true for me most of the time.