nolongerinbetween

bereavement ramblings # 7

Posted on: December 10, 2021

What is new this time is that I can’t seem to get myself to acknowledge his death. There’s a veil on my eyes that hides it from me and protects my mind from the horror of it. If you bump into me on the street and suddenly ask what’s been new with me for the past six months I wouldn’t answer: “oh well, unfortunately my father has died”. That information is just not there, not on a conscious level. I do know something horrible happened, because the pain, the trauma and all that is there but I cannot quite put my finger on it. Its source eludes me. It’s like having had a car crash accident and now, coming out of a coma, I feel bruised, covered in hematomas, traumatized but it’s all blur and I can’t put all the pieces together about how I got in that state. The last thing I remember is that my dad was dying of a horrible, horrible death but not that he did pass away. The last save checkpoint is before his actual demise. I have to dig deep to get to the hard fact of his actual death and get hit by such a disheartening realization.

*

Church gathering at the chapel around his coffin. Eulogies for my dad. Prayers. Choral singing about resurrection. I listen to their sermon in dismay but resigned. Their theological rambling brings back memories and I remember the reasons why I could never feel at home with their views. At some point I am even singled out in their speech, along with some hints to the prodigal son, and I regret not being able to make a statement by storming out. I never shied away from expressing my opposition to them, but now, for his sake, I stay put and play ball. I bury the hatchet to properly bury my dad.

*

Not believing in God anymore made his dying so much easier to deal with. It’s not that I am capable of the serene resignation atheists are talking about. I loathe that. It’s just that I no longer had to partake in the theodicean war. Reconciling God with my dad’s horrible dying was no longer an issue. It is what it is. No one to blame and hold to account. No gods to defend or to scold. No need to argue with an imaginary loving deity about cruelty. I was spared the excruciating torment I had to go through two years ago.

*

When Tori died my mind played obsessively for a couple of weeks the horrific details of her last days. The idea that I could forget the tiniest detail or repress them and inadvertently speed up the healing was suffocating me. The anger I had in me for her undeserved suffering was bordering on self-destruction. Nothing of this sort now with my dad. There’s no vivid details of his agony in my mind. No gore imagery playing on a loop. I know the suffering he had to go through was horrifying but when it comes to actual details, I have to retrieve them from my memory with some effort. They have been pushed away at the edge of my conscience, repressed, concealed, underplayed, edited, revised, softened, rewritten. At times glimpses of his agony break the censorship of my consciousness and I am utterly shocked by what I recall.

*

It’s been two years today since she died. I will carry with me the dread and heaviness of that day for the rest of my life. Was I right to worry about healing and moving on at a pace I found disheartening? In many ways I was. It’s not that the healing will ever be completed. For some people that would be true, for some it wouldn’t. But life is indeed like living in flowing waters, pushed forward by alluvium. You might stall and get stuck once in a while but eventually you will move on. The only thing that has remained unaltered, two years after she died, is my love for her. The intensity is all there, untainted, intact. I would still cross mountains and oceans, I would still go to the end of the Earth on foot to be with her if that would be possible. In two years I didn’t move an inch from that and I don’t think I will ever do.

*

I’m not the only one stricken by disbelief. Expecting him to suddenly show up, to come back from his journey or his stay in a hospital or whatever. My mum finds herself looking through the windows to see him in the garden or crossing the street from his shopping rounds. We know he is gone but not that he is dead. That would be horrible. We are stalling and dodging the bullet of truth as long as possible. Our minds play tricks on us to help us cope with the harsh truth of his definitive departure.

*

I’m haunted by the image of his deathbed scene. He died like an animal in a cage. Keeping me awake in the night while he was rattling the bars of his improvised cell. His mind was severely damaged but his instinct for freedom was intact. He wasn’t ready to give it up without putting up a fight. The need for freedom was the last thing that died in him. At the time, exhausted by sleep deprivation, I was rather annoyed with his restlessness and his attempts to escape. Now, that the dust has settled, I can see beyond the nuisance of having to restrain him and I can recognize in that relentless stubbornness his need to regain a sense of dignity and I am profoundly ashamed and guilt-ridden. Subjecting him to restrains, however needed for his own sake and protection, feels cruel to me now. Nobody should die like an animal in captivity, but they should be given the dignity of dying on their own terms.

*

Grieving feels different this time. I didn’t come undone like two years ago, when Tori died. Now the main theme is disbelief not anger, but also the pain is less striking, more discreet. Do I get used to the notion that we are mortal, finite beings? Do I love him less than I love her? Does being a nonbeliever now make things easier? Do we get altered by each death of our loved ones to the point where we just feel numb or hardly anything at all?

*

We all have misconstrued ideas of what Alzheimer is about. It sounds exotic and we think is about forgetfulness. About forgetting where you put your keys or misplacing things. But that is the surface, the trivial layer of your condition. In Alzheimer you actually lose yourself. You lose the keys to your self, to your own identity. You are dead before having died. Waiting in the dementia’s realm for your body to catch up with your mind and die as well.

*

I find the idea of dying on your birthday fascinating. Coming full circle is just beautiful. I’m no longer a religious person but I can’t help trying to extract a religious meaning from such an unlikely event. It shouldn’t really matter since it’s a trivial detail but the fact that he died on the same day of his birth was a solace to me and gave me a bit of consolation. It is said that in Alzheimer you go backwards, in reverse, losing, at first, your most recent cognitive skills and memories until you reach the first ones you acquired as a baby. Maybe that’s true and my dad reached the beginning of things and then he just died, bringing the past, present and future together.

*

All animals need a shelter. We humans go deeper than this basic need. We need a home. We need to establish an emotional bond with a specific place. We isolate a place from the wild environment, we claim it for us and make it our own. We turn chaos into order. We turn alterity into familiarity. We tame that place and call it home. It’s part of what makes us humans and distinguish us from the other animals. Our homes become part of our identity and give us the sense of belonging we so much crave.

We all experienced at some point the anguish of being stranded in an airport, railway station, hotel, hospital, city etc, due to bad weather conditions, delays, critical events, accidents, injuries, surgeries, fleeing war, migration, political turmoil, pandemics, you name it, longing for the security of our homes. We all experienced first-hand the anxiety of not being home when, for some reasons, we didn’t feel well and we could hardly wait to finally get back.

Of all the quirks and afflictions my dad had to suffer in his last months the one I found the most devastating and debilitating was that he no longer recognized his home. His mind cracked up, he got lost and he had no breadcrumbs trail to follow and find his way back home. As if he was stranded forever in transit. The anxiety we could read on his face for feeling he is in a foreign place to him was heart-breaking. Not feeling well and not feeling at home must have been horrifying for him. He was robbed by the least comfort animals are given when they feel they are dying – they retreat to their nest, den, burrow, lair etc to die in peace. Our attempts to make him remember and recognize his place were fruitless. He kept wanting to leave his home and find the protection and comfort he was missing. At times he didn’t recognize us as well, but that was for short periods of time and there was no pain attached to his memory loss. But the damage of not recognizing his own home was permanent, painful, to say the least, and psychologically debilitating. The comfort and protection you get from the familiarity of your home was taken from him. He was like a slug. A snail who lost his shell. Scared and homesick. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was, in the end, what actually killed him.

(home)

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literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.

literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.

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