Tag Archives: death

A little piece of calm

Things seem to be settling themselves down a bit finally. I am back home in Tennessee for the summer having left Gainesville this past weekend (and not a moment too soon, I might add). I have a couple of weeks to do as I please before I start my eight week summer internship. It will be nice enjoying home life until then. Irv seems to be happy ruling the third floor again and having people around more frequently. He will be living at home with my parents while I am away in Nashville during the week. I will miss he and the dogs, but we will have the weekends. My mom has taken it upon herself to make Irving become friends with our two goldens, Orrie and Boris, this summer. I told her lots of luck.

Sadly, it has been a month of loss. There was one fewer happy, wagging furry body to greet me when I walked in the door Saturday. We lost our female golden, Kel, last Tuesday to cancer. It was a very sudden death following what must have been a long and painful last few months for her. I did not get to say goodbye as I was still away in Florida. It was the first death of a family pet for which I was not present. It was devastating to be away, but I had gotten to see her in March and she was suffering far too much for us to let her stay until I could get in. My mom, who was Kel’s human, got to say goodbye to her, which is what mattered most. She was such a wonderful little girl, full of sass and love and always ready to greet with a smile and a lick. We’re feeling her loss here acutely.

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This was Kel in the last few days I got to spend with her.

I spent my last free day in Florida at the beach with two dear friends. I always thought I should have been born on a coast. I never feel as calm and happy anywhere as I do near the big water. Sadly, this was the first time I’ve been to a beach since moving to Florida, and it was actually the first time I have been in over five years. We went to a little public beach outside of St. Augustine. It was lovely to stick my toes in the Atlantic again and walk the surf. Luckily, as a family, we have decided to go to the Florida Keys again for a restorative trip over the winter holidays. We haven’t taken a family vacation in a couple of years, and, quite frankly, the past two years have been so full and stressful, in good and bad ways, that all three of us could use a couple of weeks to disappear. There’s something about being in the water that puts us right again. It was nice Thursday to have my brief encounter with the ocean again as I tried to keep my mind of the lad who was starting to make his way across the world.

There was a bit of a storm that blew up. We waited it out over a pitcher of beer and sea food at the little beach shack restaurant nearby.

The clouds were beautiful.

And the sandpipers were out in full force.

Yes, Ryan is spending the next two weeks in India. He has spent the better part of the last three months planning this trip (his first trip outside of the United States). Unfortunately the Indian cellphone he bought did not work out as planned in the touching-base-with-his-worried-girlfriend department. I finally heard from him today. He is in Agra currently taking in the Taj Mahal after spending the last two days in New Delhi. He is on to Varanasi tomorrow…er…today. I’m still trying to adjust to the time difference. According to his emails, he seems to be having a good time, which is good even if I am still a bit jealous. Unfortunately I won’t see him again until July when he comes to Nashville for a weekend. I’m hoping we will both have such busy summers that the time will go by quickly. Until then, we will just brush up on our electronic communication skills.

I put this together for him.

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How I learned that starvation would be a horrible way to go

I watched a very interesting documentary the other night, interesting but very disturbing. It is called The Sound of Insects: Record of a Mummy directed by Peter Liechti. Ryan and I had decided to watch something before bed, and I let him peruse Netflix and make the choice, not really paying attention to his choice. The opening scene was of several people pulling up to a wooded area in winter in what I read as a Scandinavian or perhaps Eastern European country. I watched this assuming that with the title and natural setting he had chosen some nature documentary. I further assumed that due to my dwindling level of energy I would crash out pretty quickly.

My assumptions changed, however, when images of a body being removed from the woods accompanied by a woman’s voice narrating the story of a mummified body that had been discovered in the woods by a hunter. The body was found in a makeshift tent of tarps and was estimated to have been dead for 100 days or so. The mummified corpse was recovered clutching a small notebook, which upon further examination turned out to be a written account of this man’s suicide by voluntary starvation. The film becomes an account of these journal entries based on the true story of the mummified man and the novella based on the true story called Until I Am a Mummy by Shimada Masahiko. The viewer is taken through the journey of this man’s slow march to meet death. I won’t give too much more away, but, suffice to say, hearing those entries read aloud in a monotone, cold male voice is nothing short of haunting.

The readings are accompanied with shots of the forest and wetlands, which I assumed were those in which he died. I am not sure, though. These shots are at once beautiful and eerie. There are also strange short sequences of a commuter train and pin ball machines which eventually give way to grainy, distorted dreamlike shots of random people and places meant, by the filmmaker, to represent the dying man’s inner thoughts. In my VERY limited knowledge of film technique, I could only think to describe it as modernist. The soundtrack played against the increasingly strange imagery actually reminded me a lot of Ballet Mechanique.

For me the experience of watching this film was a mix of extreme discomfort and complete fascination. As a viewer, one knows what the ultimate fate of the journal’s author is. However, I found myself and my own survival instinct willing this man to continue living and hoping someone would come upon him and rescue him. In his final days, when his body was truly shutting down its last faculties and his life force was flickering only dimly, I felt myself wishing he would finally die. Watching this was an incredibly moving and as Ryan noted, almost inspirational experience. I have always had a dark fascination with the boundary between life and death and the process in which a human being transforms into a corpse. To have such an intimate view of  this process was darkly beautiful.

I highly recommend this film but only to those with an existential flair and a strong stomach. It is by no means an easy watch but definitely a fascinating one.

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I am not heartless, I promise

Today is my grandfather’s memorial. I am not there with my family because I did not want to be. I do not feel the need for the theatrics of a memorial. Those things are really for those the deceased left behind to help ease the grieving process. I am not in mourning, so I don’t need that scene like some of the other members of my family do. I don’t feel like pretending that I do either (I could never get the Southern façade of faked emotion and graciousness for propriety’s sake down), so I thought it was just best if my cynicism and I stayed behind.

I am sorry that I couldn’t be closer to him, and I am sorry that I never got a chance to know him when my grandmother was alive. Everyone says he was happier and more normal around her. I like to think that maybe I would have been able to stomach him more then. Alas, life did not work out that way, and my cousins and I unfortunately got the version of him as a grandfather that we did. “Families are tricky,” as a friend recently remarked to me. Some are trickier than others, and no one’s is perfect. I like to think that for those of us who are, being part of really fucked up families just helps us develop discerning taste when it comes to the friends with whom we surround ourselves. I’m looking forward to a quiet holiday weekend with my parents and some of our dear friends once the mess of all this recent death has settled. We can start planning the next chapter the new year will bring.

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