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21st Century Lesbian Trailer Trash

These are the mad musings of a middle aged woman, dyke, nurse, poet. I have a dog, a cat, a mobile home, and delusions of grandeur.

Name:
Location: California, United States

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Pain and Grief in America

I found a wonderful book review in the New York Times online this morning. The book is 'Death's Door: Modern Dying and the Ways We Grieve,' by Sandra M. Gilbert.

I have not yet read the book but the review gladdens my heart because I do believe that we work too hard to erase, ignore, and dismiss the pain and grief of being human. But it is precisely this pain and grief that deepens and enriches us as people. Grief and loss connect us to what is real. It shows us the path to gratitude and true love and caring. We are not here forever. We must honor those who are with us as well as honor those who have touched us and moved on.

I remember my father talking about all of the people who died when he was a child. He used to say "We don't teach kids about dying anymore. It used to be that dying was just a part of life. We would set the body up in the living room in a casket. People would drop by with food and comfort the bereaved. The kids would play tag and hide and seek around the casket. Now we won't take children to a funeral because they might be traumatized."

He would always end his ramblings with my favorite closing line. "It's all just a bunch of hooey."

My friend Joan died last April. She went suddenly, at the age of 57, in her sleep. She came home from work, had dinner with her friend and her son, lay down on the couch for a nap and never woke up.

She had been a coworker of mine on 3 different jobs. She was a joy to work with. Joan was orphaned in her middle teens. She left the State, lied about her age, and found a job to support herself. Somewhere she found the strength and determination to go to nursing school, marry, and give birth to 3 beautiful children.

Her life was always hard. Her taste in men was horrendous. At times she was homeless. Her health had not been good for many years. But her children and her profession were her strength and her joy. She was good at both. Her daughters are lovely and successful in life. Her son grew up strong and sweet. Tragically, she died before her son finished high school.

At the moment, he is lost. But I have faith he will be OK because Joan gave him such a wonderful foundation of love and commitment.

I have a black ribbon on my name badge. After 30 days, my boss invited me to remove it. "I'm not ready" I told her. "I may never be ready. I knew Joan for a long time. I loved and admired her. I may never take it off."

My boss is uncomfortable with that. She wants to move on. We have moved on. But I will always miss Joan on some level. She is part of my personal mythology. Like my grandmother whom I adored, and my mother who passed on before we healed the wounds between us, Joan continues to live within my inner landscape.

I choose to not bury any lingering pain. It does not detract from the joy of her memory. It only serves to remind me that life is short and precious.





Kinja, the weblog guide

4 Comments:

Blogger ~ nellenelle said...

Bravo!

And excuse me, but :-P to your boss... it is not up to her how you silently represent your grief, and I find her suggestion to remove tasteless.

So much of being human *is* dealing with the power of the emotions we carry. Yes, some management is necessary. I choose not to carry anger as much as is possible; but love, caring, remembering the good, the humorous, those who have touched our lives, who have given something of themselves to us... you bet I miss them, and you bet a piece of me was lost with them.

I'm weird on this (like with so much else, rofl!) I'm not into funerals so much as celebrations, but I don't run from emotions, I experience them, let them touch me and at times surround me, not to depress, but... to experience, to perhaps remember, to contemplate, to understand.

Music is usually the catalyst that ties it together, brings it all out. I wrote of River a couple of weeks ago, and that is precisely what the song did... tied me into all these myriad of collective emotional experiences, and it was almost overwhelming at times, but it is so very worth it.

Wear it Pam, for as long as you damn well feel the need. It is a connection to the past, to another you cared about. I'd not let go simply because another lacks the ability to see and feel what you do in this instance... I'd let go when you reach that place in time where you find it is time... and only then.

*hugs*

nelle

6:47 PM PST  
Blogger Pat Kirby said...

I'm sorry about your friend.

We lost a friend a few years ago. The funny thing is, it was almost more traumatic than losing a parent.

You almost expect the parents to go first. But friends? Friends are immortal...

3:02 PM PST  
Blogger Myrthe said...

"Joan continues to live within my inner landscape": What a great way of expressing what you mean!

I agree with you that people (not just in the US, but probably in a large part of the Western world) don't know how to deal with death and grieving anymore.
My aunt and uncle lost their oldest son (who would have been 31, almost 32 now) about 13 years ago in a traffic accident. She once told me that many people feel uncomfortable if she talks about him, if she still brings him up in conversations. She brings him up not even to grieve or in a heavy-handed way, but usually in a matter-of-fact-way. As if she isn't allowed to talk about her dead son, as if that is something inappropriate! She told me that after some time people expected her to be over her grief and that she should move on and get over it and not talk too much about him anymore. Well, let me tell you: she did move on (and in such a way that I have great respect for her), but she never got over her loss completely. But then again: should she? Should that really be expected of her?

6:30 AM PST  
Blogger NursePam said...

How can anyone forget the death of a child? He will always be her child. His history, and their history as a family, will always be an important part of her. My love and condolences to your friend.

12:12 AM PST  

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