I've talked to my mom twice this week and learned about two deaths and the decline of a third old family friend. Today she called to tell me about the wake for James--husband of Bonnie, father to Sarah and Simone (my childhood playmates). From date of diagnosis to death was about four months. A week or so before that she told me that Ray Jacobsen, a well known Sonoma artist and familiar face from my youngest years, had died.
These people are old, old family friends--the kind that I saw a lot when I was a child but not so much as an adult. In all the old hippie photos of my parents--these are among those featured. The gangly men in worn out jeans and turtlenecks, hair to their shoulders, mustaches wide and brimming with health. The women svelte and high-cheeked, vamping in halter dresses and platform sandals.
Today she also told me she'd spoken to my "godmother"--one of my mom's oldest friends with whom I also used to be incredibly close for most of my life. "G" had childhood cancer that required radiation treatment. They warned her even then that due to the radiation to cure that cancer, she could expect to face cancer again as an adult. Decades later it turned up in one breast and nodes, which she had removed, and some parts of her colon. Over the years, due to a complex network of issues that I just don't feel like going into here today, our relationship became strained and eventually I stopped being in touch with her and her husband because it was too hard to skirt what was unresolved. I'm not good at sitting with proverbial elephants in the living room. But today my mom tells me she's now bedridden, and has lost weight, which is impossible to imagine as she was very thin before. She said, "I didn't even recognize her voice." And though she is still at home for now, the outlook isn't good.
So what do I feel? What am I even trying to get at in this post? When someone approaches death and you have complex feelings for them, how do you handle this? My intuition is to say something, to refer back to the years when I was close with them, when I did love and feel loved by them, and tell her that those years were important to me. I even, I admit, feel like visiting them, though I fear it will be awkward and uncomfortable. I guess what I'm feeling is an overwhelming urge to forgive, whether or not that was earned.
As I muse on loss, then, it was well timed to discover this Question of the Week over at LitPark, combined with an unusal contest on loss. I invite you all to investigate both Sue's great site, and this unusal opportunity.
Also, while you're at it, scroll down to read about Patry Francis (or just visit her breathtaking blog). She too is tackling illness (with grace and energy) and as a result, the blogosphere is coming together to help promote the paperback release of her fabulous novel The Liar's Diary--including Jordan's Muse--on January 29th.