nolongerinbetween

Posts Tagged ‘grief

My father didn’t really know me. At all. He didn’t know what makes me tick, what I am made of, how damaged or brilliant I can be. To my shame, he wasn’t even privy to my mundane self since most of the time he had no idea what’s going on in my life. There’s always this huge gap between parents and their offspring that I find horrifying. Some parents manage to bridge the gap and cross it, but most of them remain in the dark. To give birth to something that is not you, that is so different, so foreign to you is a terrifying experience that all parents have, but to be clueless about what you brought into life, to raise someone who eludes you completely, to not know your own child takes this to another level. I don’t blame him though, since, like I said, it’s more like a structural fracture that emerges between parents and kids and less a parenting failure on his part. But it’s horribly sad. The thought that I could have a kid and that my understanding of him would be skin-deep, stopping at the surface, that I would be in the dark about the way he feels, the way he navigates through the difficulties of his life, his anxieties, his fears, his mental torments, his coping mechanisms, his thoughts, his pleasures, his likes, his desires, his dreams, his hopes etc makes me shiver with horror. If he could now have a look at who I am, from the inside, he would be dumbstruck. Who is this stranger he called his son for all this time?

*

When someone we love dies our mind tries to apprehend their disappearance. In the same way we try to understand what’s behind a magical trick performed on us, when something vanishes into thin air in front of our eyes. But I find that with death our mind gives up quite hastily. Because we have a name for it, because we have assigned a word for their magical disappearance (death), even though the word doesn’t explain anything, our mind stops even trying. We just accept it. Death. We shrug. We move on. No further inquiry.

Only a kid would try to deconstruct our unsatisfactory answer and look further.

– Where did grandpa go mummy?

– He died.

– What do you mean he died? What do you mean by that?

– Pause.

*

The shocking stiffness of their body. In death our flesh loses not only its warmth but also its softness and plasticity. We turn into cold, hardened objects. I had some idea about stiffness but not about the stonelike sensation and the alienation that comes with it when you touch them. The shock you have when you hold into your arms the hardened body of someone you love is something else and nobody can prepare you for it.

*

Resurrection is a collective dream mankind has got since the beginning of time. A Jungian archetype I follow faithfully. Since he died, I dreamed about him three times and in all of these dreams he was resurrected. Not just alive, as if nothing had happened, as if the setting was before his death and we were oblivious to it. He did die and we all knew it, but through some bizarre interventions (in one my mum gives him some CPR, incredulous of his actual death) he was brought back to life. He is now weak, fragile, unwell but we are all happy he’s got another shot at life. I wake up in a state of frenziness, overwhelmed by this mixture of joy that he is alive and the disappointment that is not true. Schizoid is my middle name.

*

You can’t replicate with humans the bond you have with an animal.  There’s an intensity to it that humans cannot provide with the same continuity. Because animals are simpler creatures, the bond with them is stronger and almost indestructible. Until death do us part is better matched by our animal friends than by the bond between humans, which are fragile and fickle and rarely survive the wear of time. The imprinting mechanism, that in most cases, sits at the core of their attachment to us cannot be written off. We are their world, their life, their gods, their mothers, their fathers, their kids, their lovers, their everything. Who on earth can possibly match that? What human can compete with that level of faithfulness and religious devotion?  When we lose them to death, we lose access to the purest form of unconditional love and loyalty we can get, matched only by the bond between a mother and her child.

*

Guilt-ridden. For not putting her to sleep. For not releasing her from suffering sooner. For not humanely killing her. For not being able to look into her eyes while she would take her last breath into my arms. As regrettable as it might sound, I owe my sanity to this weakness. I have no doubts that putting her down would have tipped me over the edge to sheer madness. I would have lost it completely. With my dad is the other way around. I carry a sense of guilt for not pushing him harder, for not going the extra mile to buy him more time. Guilt is indeed a nasty companion of death.

*

Even now, six months later after his demise, dad’s shirts and pants are hanging in the same places. As if nothing happened. I am seated at the kitchen table, in my parents’ home, eating, while from some hangers on the wall his shirts are staring back at me, making me uneasy. In one of his pants you can see the pocket is full, bursting with stuff he used to collect obsessively (wires, keys, pieces of paper, money, corks etc). Once or twice I buried my head in them shirts and wept like a child. Leaving things untouched after someone’s death, in an attempt to freeze time, is a clear sign of depression. But I wouldn’t challenge my mum on this since, when it comes to dealing with death, I’m not much different. I procrastinate. I linger. I dwell on it. Anything but admitting the finality of death.

*

La capela, dupa predica, lumea se grupeaza in bisericute. Catching up as usual. Copii, pandemie, joburi, nepoti, inflatie, nunti, botezuri, sfaturi despre muraturi, vaccinuri, concedii, you name it. Nimeni nu vorbeste despre tata. In afara de mama nimeni nu pare sa stie de ce se afla acolo. Nu stiu ce e mai trist, sa nu vina nimeni la priveghiul tau sau sa ai un priveghi care sa nu fie despre tine. Ca un politist de pompe funebre, incerc constiincios sa il aduc pe tata la propriul lui priveghi, sa il introduc in subiectele de discutie. Bag vreascuri pe foc dar simt mereu ca fara inputul meu focul se stinge repede de fiecare data.

Exista intotdeauna o prejudecata pe care o avem fata de cei carora le moare cineva. Credem ca e dureros si stanjenitor sa vorbim despre cei morti cu cei indoliati. Ca e de preferat sa trecem totul sub tacere. Sa nu stingherim cu indiscretia noastra. Cand dimpotriva, reflexul pe care il avem cand ne mor cei dragi e sa vorbim intruna despre ei. Sa-i netacem. Sa-i nemurim vorbind despre ei. Sa nu-i lasam inghititi de uitare. Dureros pentru cel indoliat nu e sa vorbeasca ci sa nu vorbeasca despre cel pierdut. Un priveghi in care esti injurat e de preferat unuia in care nu esti pomenit.

*

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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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I thought it would hit me like a train at full speed. The violence of losing her. The violence of her lifeless body in my arms. The violence of her absence. But there was nothing like that. Life goes on shamelessly. The sun still rises in the morning. The trees carry on growing. The rivers flow into seas unabashedly. People go about their daily life. I eat. I sleep. I play games. I have sex. I read books. I laugh at sitcoms. I go on with my life. I function. The grieving process is known to be often out of sync. I expected to be ripped apart suddenly by a nuclear bomb but instead I am just slowly suffocating under the flood tides of her absence. I am drowning. Slowly and steadily. You don’t get to choose your death and you don’t get to choose how you grieve over your loss. How the grief takes hold of you. I am drowning under this heavy ocean of missing her. Dying a thousand deaths every single hour she is not here. Sinking down to the bottom while images of her last agonising months keep projecting into my mind without end. Like a painful itch I need to scratch to make sure it will never stop. Like a wound I need to keep picking at to make sure it won’t heal and go away. I dread the thought of getting over my loss for it feels as if I’d lose her a second time. If my soul bleeds to death while trying to retain a bit of her presence so be it, I am willing to pay the price.

 

 

And yet despite my sinking into sorrow I’ve found a sense of peace and calm underneath. Her death made me think about my own mortality and death if not peacefully at least with less anguish and less horror. Death will not be a road to nowhere but a road to someone I love and someone I want to forever be with. This single bit takes the edge off our fear and makes death even desirable. I know that the concept of an afterlife and blissfully joining our loved ones might be just wishful thinking and our way of coping with loss, death and the absurdity of life but from where I stand if there’s only 0,1 % chance I might see her again I am willing to cling to that. I would cross thousands of hells and limboes to reach her if need be. Real love is a rare gem and I was unbelievably lucky and blessed to share it with her. She tamed me and I tamed her and that bond cannot be severed by death. “Death, where is your sting? Where is your power to hurt?”  (1 Cor. 15:55)

 

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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.