death is a strange bedfellow. it is a seemingly palpable presence, but in reality is simply an abstract one. we fear it because of its inherent mystery; we explain it by weaving stories that are pulled out from inside our hearts. we avoid discussing it but we all face it someday. or experience it, rather.
“today,” we might say, as from a news broadcast featuring walter cronkite, “jane doe experienced death. though we cannot ask her to describe it, as her brain can no longer send the proper electrical signals to her throat and mouth to form sounds, we can imagine myriad things she might say in an interview with terry gross regarding the subject.” we fill in the story for our dead friends.
because nothing is more frustrating than not knowing.
this has been a year of death visits and death missed-connections. sometimes death walked in, brushing me aside, when i cracked opened the door; sometimes death called to see if it could visit and i was like, i mean, you COULD but seriously you’re always so inconsiderate, so could you just not. and death sent a postcard anyhow. my mom’s cancer, incurable but supposedly slow-growing ( “a good cancer to get if you have to get an incurable cancer”), hangs out like that sleazy mustachioed yippie who can’t figure out what to do with himself in between burning man events. every day she wonders when chemo will begin; what years-left number will come out of the aging mesh bingo basket. multiple acquaintances have been diagnosed with cancer; in fact, if there were a google search for most-spoken-word in my life, cancer would be up there just underneath the phrase “fuck this shit”.
and two friends, one young, one old, died. those were the days death came through the door. it never gets easier, hearing that door shut and then having to rock yourself back to a steady stand-still when the weight of that person’s spirit has been displaced. i sit around and wonder how to talk about it. mostly i don’t talk about it. i can’t write about it without drifting into reverie. so what is left when your fingers reach for the keys and the letters you plunk upon don’t seem to translate into something meaningful? at this point, death should be my friend, should buy crappy happy hour drinks with me and remark on how good the tater tots are when we’re too tipsy to ponder how clean that circa 1930s unrenovated bar kitchen is. death should have a kind, open face. death should listen, should comfort. should spin the story out from within us so we don’t have to.
but death has no mouth. only the living do.