If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know how terrified motherhood has made me. I manage to choke it back for the most part, but sometimes things happen that stop me in my tracks and make it hard to breathe. That’s why I stopped watching the news. I still read the paper, but mostly I just glance at the headlines, and I look away when there’s a graphic photo or the words “murder, rape, stabbed, shot” etc. I prefer to get my news from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, thanks.
Tonight I am home alone with Kyle because Stewart had to attend a fancy dinner for the school. I was supposed to accompany him, but I have been sick all week and I am only just beginning to recover today. I think. I mean, yesterday I had a fever, bloodwork, and a chest x-ray, but today I’m feeling fine! Just a little bit dizzy. Okay, a lot dizzy. But I don’t have a fever anymore and I’m not nauseous or bloated or doubled over with abdominal pain. I know – you’ll have what I’m having, right?
I have a whole long sob story about this week’s illness, but that’s another post. Or maybe I’ll address it down below. The point I started out to make is that I am home alone so I wound up sitting here haphazardly surfing the blogs I read and I don’t usually do this but I followed a few links and lo and behold I found a new site I am compelled to read from the beginning. Mostly because the writing is fantastic and heartwrenching but also because I know the ending, and I will tell you because I would hate for you to click here for instance, if you’re in that link-clicking mood, and see the blog and be blindsided by the tragedy.
The blogger died yesterday.
First of all, this opens up a whole new concept for me – what happens to a blog when the blogger is gone? I have heard of a hideous website called My Deathspace that links to the Myspace pages of kids who died. I don’t know if it was meant as a joke or a memorial but I hate it either way. But for grown-ups, who tell their life stories (or something like that) our sites are so valuable. Look how we freak out when Blogger malfunctions and posts don’t get published right away or photos won’t link or God forbid your blog looks like it’s been lost.
On this new blog, I read down a few posts to find out about the events leading up to her death and it looks like she got really sick and never found the strength or time to say goodbye. At least she had a friend post updates so her readers could leave comments with support and love. Oh God, how sad! It makes me think that I should put a clause in the will that I started (and have not yet finished because, you know, thinking about death immobilizes me) that appoints a person to update and finalize my blog and then ultimately try to get it published as a book, because as I read through this sad blog that is what I was thinking – this would be a great book. I don’t mean that in a callous or nonchalant way. Her blog is called Cancer, Baby and it’s all about her ovarian cancer and how it made her infertile and her eloquent, sad, and furious responses to both. As a book it would be cathartic to so many more people.
Immortality aside, this discovery thunked me on the head with mortality in a place I was not expecting to encounter it. I guess you never expect to encounter such terrible things, unless you are obsessed about them, like I was after my friend Robin died in 2003. As my counselor said, I was young and suddenly faced with the idea that I was not immortal, so my constant thoughts about death were my reaction to this realization. It wasn’t like I sat around all day thinking about death. It was more like this: I’m driving and suddenly get cut off by some idiot driver in the next lane over. No impact, nothing deserving more than a fine curse shouted through the closed window at the offender in the car ahead of me. But instead of that being the end of it, my mind continues the story as if there were a great and fiery collision, in which I died a grisly death, and my husband and my family and my friends wailed with misery and someone found my old diary and was horrified by the things they read within. I was pretty intricate with these – what shall I call them? – fantasies. I imagined the rescuers finding my charred body and trying to identify me. Stewart not hearing from me but not being worried until I didn’t come home that night. How would he hear the news? Would a cop come to the door? Nobody can ever even reach him so would he eventually try to call my office? Etc.
Horrible, yes. After a minute or two of this, in traffic, I would be bawling and hyperventilating. And this happened to me often more than once a day. The hyperventilating led to light-headedness and irregular heartbeats, and those things coupled with my seething fury directed toward my dead friend led me to counseling for which I am vastly grateful. When the counselor reminded me that I had to go through the seven stages of grief I told him that I came to him so I could skip the stages and just get to the end. Instead he sort of fast-tracked me through them. The bizarre death obsession went away pretty quickly, but it took months of counseling (I refuse to call it therapy, because the guy was a CSW, not a psychologist, and come on, I don’t need therapy) and some more time after that for my anger to subside. The irony of the situation is that Robin is the one who really needed counseling – no, SHE needed therapy – but it was her friends who survived her suicide who wound up on the couch.
People are surrounded by death everywhere, all the time. The news of it, the witnessing of it, the one or two degrees of separation from it. Robin’s was my first smack-you-the-face warningless experience of it, and I was changed.
Now when news of death enters my consciousness I react to it as a mother. I remember shortly after Kyle was born there was a terrible story in the paper about a young boy who was killed by another boy after a Little League game – the parents were all on Oprah later, of course – and I dissolved into a puddle of grief for the parents. Two weeks ago I learned that my dear friend’s 14-year-old niece died suddenly. The news made my insides seize up and tears come to my eyes for my friend’s family and especially the poor mother. How does she live after her child has died? How does she continue? For her other children, I suppose, but what if there was only one? How does she not just surrender?
Today I found out that another friend had to put her 18-year-old cat to sleep, and I cried for her, too. This cat was like her child, and the only thing she had to hang onto during a particularly tough time she’s going through. On top of everything else, this loss has crippled her.
You know I don’t swear anymore. But…fuck death.
Cancerbaby’s blog made me identify with what it would be like to experience the slow unraveling of the body and its descent to failure. Instead of reacting to this death as a young woman facing mortality for the first time, or as a new mother terrified by the thought of losing a child, her story made me react as an adult woman, who is reminded that life is indeed short and precious.
This post started out as just me, telling you about this new site I found. But it’s so much more than that, and I thought Cancerbaby deserved this outpouring of my gut since I couldn’t really hold it back. If you visit her site, be careful of the comments, or make sure you have a box of tissues handy.