Sunday, November 4, 2007

Been thinking about mortality some...

What Sarah Said: by Death Cab for Cutie (name is total coincidence)

And it came to me then that every plan
is a tiny prayer to Father Time,
As I stared at my shoes in the ICU
That reeked of piss and 409.

And I rationed my breaths as I said to myself
That I've already taken too much today
As each descending peak on the LCD
Took you a little farther away from me (away from me)

Amongst the vending machines and year old magazines
In a place where we only say goodbye
It's then with a violent wind that our memories depend
On a faulty camera in our mind

And I knew that you were a truth I would rather lose
Than to have never lain beside at all
And I looked around at all the eyes on the ground
As the TV entertained itself

Cuz there's no comfort in the waiting room
Just nervous paces bracing for bad news
Then the nurse comes 'round and everyone lifts their head
But I'm thinking of what Sarah said...
Love is watching someone die.

(So who's gonna watch you die?)

(So who's gonna watch you die?)

(So who's gonna watch you die?)

*music gradually fades after about a 1:40*

Most people reading this probably know from other blogs that my cousin died recently. For those that don't, she had a severe allergic reaction to cats that is apparently genetic (uncle had a strong reaction, another cousin had a reaction, and my brother Jeff is already known to be allergic). I wasn't particularly close to her because they live so far away and I don't know many of the cousins younger than me. What made me think the most though is that I didn't feel particularly sad... I know that the whole "when the bell tolls it tolls for thee" type of thing but for some reason it didn't even hit me for a couple days.
When I found out it was Fall Break, maybe Friday morning. I was texting a friend about stuff and then all she said was to call the house. Nothing urgent or anything, just said to call. I figured they were over and wanted to vent vocally or whatever (wouldn't be the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last). This was the weekend where I was unexpectedly stuck off campus because my roommate threw away the forms that needed to be filled out saying I could be there over the break. I never even saw them, but that's beside the point. I was crashing at a friend's house cuz he lived off campus a few minutes so I'd be able to stay there until Jason and Lunchbox got back and still be close enough to walk to my Saturday class. After class on Saturday I went with Jason and Lunchbox out of town to Jason's where I only brought it up in passing when I saw the cats there. As far as the weekend was concerned that was basically it. Didn't give myself a chance or anything to think about it because of what was going on around me. Told Alex when he called but again, it was in passing and didn't dwell past the whole "yeah so I'm avoiding cats for the time being" thing.
A few days into the next week I somehow have downtime. That's when I realized that my cousin had died and that although it wasn't someone I knew well at all, barely recognized the name, I still should have felt some pang of sadness but for some reason got nothing. I cried watching Stop Kiss (the absolutely amazing play at Winthrop I was doing lights for and where this song was played) but not for someone's daughter. I don't know if it's because I'm not a parent or whatever but I eventually got to the point where I noticed that I had been sad-ish but somehow I didn't think I felt sad enough. No tears, or fond memories, or wishing I could have been there, or anything like that... I was more saddened by the fact that not only had it taken me so long to think about somebody dying, but that I didn't feel anything special about it. What kind of reaction is that? To be sitting there thinking "My cousin died" but then having it leave your mind cuz you gotta talk to someone about this 32oz steak you ate that weekend.
Before I come off as some sort of miserable, uncaring douche, it wasn't that I didn't wish I could have known her better and all. I just didn't think much about any of it. I guess I'm just now getting this all out of my head. Should I have at least had some brilliant mental ping about mortality and the brevity of my own existence? Some sort of gain from another person's loss? Heck I couldn't even use the excuse of a relative dying if I wanted to and here my roommate is making up relatives because he got slept through an exam. WTF?
Basically I guess what I'm stuck on is the last phrase repeated of the song... If love means watching someone die, who's gonna watch me if I can't even conjure teary eyes for someone else?


Papa D said...

Really profound, Ryan, but I can some up the answer for you in five words: "You are your father's son."

You see the person who tears up over a lot of things (who is "sensitive" in some ways), but you don't see the person who faced the same questions about not breaking down (or feeling incredible sadness) over things like this. I have made one truly DEEP and lasting emotional connection in my life - to Mama. I really like people and am a very kind, caring person, but I don't think I will "grieve" in a "normal" sense even when my own parents die. I think there are two reasons for that:

1) It just isn't who I am. I get that from your grandfather - a natural inclination to focus on what needs to happen with the living and not worry about the dead.

2) I am not concerned in the slightest about what happens to the dead. I am convinced to the core of my soul that God will work it all out in the end to the best possible benefit of all His children, so I just don't feel "sad" when someone dies.

Remember my post about grandpa's reaction? It never crossed his mind to feel bad about her dying, since he knew she was OK. His focus was on those left behind - making sure the rest of his family wasn't overwhelmed by it - that they could "take it in stride" per se.

I'm glad you are facing this aspect of your personality, but I hope you don't let "worldly" expectations and demands for tears cloud the reality that mourning in a traditional sense actually is NOT a requirement of humanity. You are more like me (and grandpa) than you realize - which I hope is not a bad thing.

Papa D said...

"sum up" - not "some up"

Sheesh; you'd think I'd gone to MIT.

Patty said...

Thank goodness I'm not the only one who feels this way! I think that we'll grieve the loss of companionship of someone we're really close to, but not their actual death. Does that make sense?

Dancer09 said...

wow, Ryan. that was good. i guess i never really stopped to think about it, either.

sometimes it's hard not living close to family. i wish i could be with her family now, but not to mourn. just to make sure their ok. sure there'd be tears of sadness, but mostly (at least my tears) would be of joy; knowing she's going to a good place and that we'll see her again. i do wish i had own her better. mama told me she was my age.

i guess it would be hard to live right there with them and know her the way some of the family did. but i'd still rather have been there.

i don't remember when this was, but i remember Papa telling me and k**** that when he dies, he wants a party. no crying or mourning and i really respect that. that would be hard and very different. but i do really hope i remember.

i hope you know you have (at the very latest) 7 of us back home who'll be there "watching you die." (unless that sounds too negative.)

love ya!

Mama D said...

Wow, between you and Jessica I'm a bit teary-eyed. I think Patty (Sis Radabaugh, to you!) is right -- we mourn and miss the companionship, the relationship, the fun we had together. And when you live far away from family and don't see them often, and long distance or internet connection isn't always an option for everyone in our families... It's easy for those relationships not to be as strong as they might otherwise be.

Try to remember that it is compassion, love, and gratitude that are some of the hallmarks of humanity -- not any particular level of mourning and grief when something like this happens.

Do you think and pray that your aunt, uncle, and their kids will find a measure of peace and comfort? Do you think of your own personal relationships, and what you might do to strengthen them? Are you loving and caring about others, appreciative of what they do for/with you? If so, that is a pretty good indication that you are indeed feeling something that matters and makes a difference. And you will have with you those who love and appreciate you to "watch you die." You won't be alone, aloof, without purpose.

In short, it's okay to feel this way. Come to terms with it, and then decide "what now?" What are you going to do with the rest of your life to make a difference, so that you *will* have someone who loves you to "watch you die."

Papa D said...

Haven't posted in a month -- I'm wondering about your mortality. *grin*