A Year of Death & Divorce

Death and I do not get along. It mocks me, and I curse and spit at it. But then, I turn around, and go back to the mechanics of my daily life. I've become an expert in denial.

I'm bad at dealing with death. Very bad. It angers me to think about losing someone, anyone, I've ever come into contact with. I get addicted to people, and even if they've only been in my life briefly, I am still easily overwhelmed by their loss. If you and I meet on a train and have an amazing 10 minute conversation, rest assured that 15 years later I will remember you, your face, and I will want to hang out with you and listen to the story of your life for the last 15 years if ever we meet again. You'll probably wonder "dude, who's this creepy lady who remembers a 10-minute conversation on a train from 15 years ago?" and sometimes I am annoyed by how attached I get to, well, everyone, but I've learned to live with this quirk of mine and just go with it. We only have one life, so shouldn't we cherish all of the people we are fortunate to meet?

Now my uncle R (who is also my godfather) is going off life support as I write this. I'm pretty sure some of my family members think I'm crazy. "What's wrong with her? She hasn't seen him in years!" No, I haven't seen him in years. I haven't made any effort, whatsoever. I'm a douchebag for not spending more time with my extended family. I got the news via email in my office, and there I sat, in full pathetic glory, bawling alone while listening to the rain. I remember the time we did spend together. I remember things in frames that aren't quite all in order, but the scents, the lighting, the colors, the laughs, the distinct voices... they are all there quite clearly. I remember him, and it pisses me off that I am losing him, that his kids are losing their father.

Why am I such a fountain this year? When my lola died, I got emails starting with "I know you aren't normally emotional, but if you need me..." and my personal favorite "I know you don't do the whole tears thing..." I distinctly remember these because for some reason I got all defensive. "I do so cry sometimes!" I would retort, but alas, they're right: I have not been so big on the crying thing for most of my adult life. Other people crying, I can deal with. Me crying? I don't think so.

But then this year has changed all that. 2008 has been the year of death and divorce. All around me, I have watched friends and family lose parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, children, spouses... I have one friend who lost both parents within a month. Within one year, I have watched even more friends deal with ailing family members, and more than ever before, I am surrounded by friends dealing with divorce, which more than a few of them have equated as dealing with a death. It's the death of part of your life, saying goodbye to a person who was your life and trying to fit into a new one. Except with divorce you get the whole rebirth thing, and with death you're, well, done. So much sadness, so many goodbyes, so much pain and questioning and guilt. So. Fucking. Much. Can the year please just let up a little? Jeebus! Enough with the drama! It's bad enough that the economy has tanked, our earth is dying, and that they don't make the chocolate covered Kudos bars anymore... can we at least ease up on the death of loves ones?

I'm at the age where there are certainly more possibilities for grave illnesses. The word cancer is as common among friends these days as the term keg party was for us not so long ago (ok, maybe it was long ago, but humor this old hag). I had my own scare less than a year ago, and even though everything turned out fine, there was still that "oh holy shit, I really could die sooner than later"that is more of a possibility now more than ever, especially when you're undergoing procedures you'd always imagined you wouldn't ever have to undergo until you were older. Suddenly, ta-da! You're old enough, and you wonder how the hell you got there so fast. Our parents are aging. Our circle of friends is wider. There are many, many reasons why there's more death & divorce in my life these days. None of them make me feel any better.

So I'm trying to figure it all out, while also trying to figure out how to explain these things to my kids. My son is at the age where he truly wants answers and quite frankly, mommy doesn't have any. I don't believe in bullshitting him, and we don't conform to any religion so those convenient "heaven" answers don't fly in our house, but I also don't want to leave him with more questions. So I try to focus on the now, and talk about how there are so many things we can do today, to teach him how to live a life without regret, to live so that at the end of each day he can be proud of who he is at that exact moment and all he has done up until then. But those aren't answers. Those are delays. Why do we die? I don't know. It makes me mad that we do. It pisses me off that today I'm losing someone who once opened up his home to me and my family, who made a ginormous Filipino feast for more than 20 of us, who had a great smile and laugh in my memories, whom I didn't get to see on a regular basis, and who is leaving behind a wife, kids and grandkids who love him very much. More and more, we're losing each other. I'm putting the year of death & divorce in a big time out for now, until it can learn to calm down a bit.


Asha {Parent Hacks} said...

Hi Marlynn -- I'm so sorry 2008 has been such a crap year for you. You know? It has been a crap year for me, too, and for just about everyone I care about. I joked with my neighbor (who's also ready to see 2008 in the rear view mirror) that we should all get as drunk as possible on New Year's Eve and send 2008 out with the trash.

I often say to myself (and Twitter) that it's hard to be a grownup. But it really is. Life's hardships eventually catch up with us and with those we love. I think you and I are both pretty positive people, who see the best in most things. But there are times when we just have to shake our head at the hard stuff, the unfair stuff, and the sad stuff.

It goes without saying that brighter times are ahead. Those times will be all the sweeter for our having made it thru 2008.

Wishing you and your family the best.

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Kelly said...

Wow. Very powerful. First, let's hope the drama is in fact over. Second, thanks for sharing - so many of us feel like it's not ok to be irritated when things like this happen. Kudos to you for admitting that you're pissed!

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gretablau said...

Death sucks and I still don't get it. I also fear it like hell. Guess now would be a good time to believe in God.

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ml said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Marlynn. Your uncle sounds like an incredibly generous man who is gone too soon.

Like you, I had a year full of death and disaster. But, mine was 2007. I had my very close run-in with the big D (death, not divorce!),suffered through a long recovery from the injuries for most of the year, and also lost several dearly-loved family members.

Now that the year is behind me (and I'm sure there will be years as bad as that one ahead of me), I have a bit of perspective. I don't believe in the whole "there's a reason for everything" cliche. But I will say that the awful, terrible, horrible very bad year led to some amazing things that might not have happened had the year been status quo. It was the impetus to move closer to family, to decide to spend more time at home with my children, to re-engage with loved ones, and to try to enjoy the present as much as possible.

I hope a year from now, you can cite some positive things that came out of a very trying year. I think it's the most we can hope for during hard times. And it takes time to materialize.

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marlynn said...

thanks so much for your comments, everyone.

Asha, I am sorry you are having a tough year as well. I seem to be saying that it sucks to be a grown up more than ever these days too. I wish you and your family much health & happiness ahead.

It's all part of life, and it's all good, I know, in the end, but it still sucks. thanks everyone :)

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Daisy said...

So sorry to hear of your many losses. I don't know who said it first, but she said it well. "God only gives us as much as we can handle. I only with God didn't think i could handle so much!"

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AKBrady said...

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
We can't have all the answers, then there would be no questioning.
That is the only thing I do know.

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