Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Seraphim and Cherubim

We watched the latter half of the second part of Angels in America last night, and for the first time, I realized why AIDS was called Gay Cancer when it first emerged. The seemingly random lesions, the steady decline in organ function, and the hissing, wheezing cough are all the same. Not all cancers end that way, of course—just the ones I’ve seen.

My grandfather, Mom’s dad, died in January of this year. I traveled to see him for the first time in several years shortly before his death. For the first time in ages, he was asking about me, so I bought my first pack of cigarettes in three years and hopped in the car. I’ve managed to quit (again) since then, but the stress and pressure and anxiety have tempted me more than once. My grandfather never answered to Grandpa, at least to me. I had to use his first name, leading in part to my impression of our relationship as cordial, informal, and impersonal. I don’t have a name for him in my mind, not Paul, not Grandpa, just my grandfather.

I was a preschooler before we ever met one another, and we lived within two hours’ drive.

The only picture of him that I have is still on the dresser at my parents’ house. It looks at me, and frankly, it creeps me out. Somehow it’s too personal and intimate to turn the frame face down. It’s creepy, not meaningful in any way. Moving it seems extreme given our distant relationship.

Mom was there when he died. She had a tumultuous relationship with him and never duked it out entirely, but she was there because he was her father and because she has the strength to be realistic without holding a grudge. We spent a lot of time on the phone those weeks she was living there. My grandmother goes to bed at 7:00 P.M. (not an exaggeration), and he was doped up on pain medication. We continued that trend when she was back home full time, and she hated to think of how cold his body would be in the mausoleum. Every time I hear her voice, I make an extra effort to store it in my memory, but I don’t know if I can.

Angels in America addressed the death and dying issues in such a raw and straightforward way. I was making nisuah, so I had an excuse to turn my back to the screen and move away and think about something else. Bread. Bread is good and life-giving. Life-giving. I struggle with the existential stuff more lately than ever before, and A in A was too much. I pray both for the courage to trust God that my life isn’t just a serendipitous chemical reaction and for the happy numbness not to care.


Post a Comment

<< Home

This gif is freely copyable. Just right click, save
Powered by
RSSify at WCC

Powered by Blogger