Day 70: Letting go
I was given a book by Doug after the Celebration of Life: The Year of Magical Thinking written by Joan Didion in 2005. It was a national book award winner and well written. I think the award was given because of the topic and her direct manner of dealing with the sudden death of her husband and struggle with keeping her daughter alive through most of the year, after a case of ‘December’ flu turned into pneumonia and septic shock. A tragedy by all accounts and from all fronts. Certainly death and ceremonies have a long tradition in all cultures, of which she writes little. Her accounts are personal, occasionally delving into the topic of death and grief from the somewhat long medical literature (a.k.a. psychiatric and etiquette perspective). My diagnosis 50 years ago, based on my writing, would be considered palpably clinical.
Her book is centered on two lines: Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant. Today’s letter is from her. The ending of the book spoke loud and clear to me: the last 2 pages.
“I was crossing Lexington Avenue when this occurred to me.
I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us.
I also know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we have to relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead.
Let them become the photograph on the table.
Let them become the name on the trust accounts.
Let go of them in the water.
Knowing this does not make it any easier to let go of him in the water.
In fact the apprehension that our life together will decreasingly be the center of my every day seemed today on Lexington Avenue so distinct a betrayal that I lost all sense of oncoming traffic.
I think about leaving the lei at St. John the Divine.
A souvenir of the Christmas in Honolulu when we filled the screen with blue…
The lei I left at St. John the Divine would have gone brown by now.
Leis go brown, tectonic plates shift, deep currents move, islands vanish, rooms get forgotten.”
Joan has lived with death and grief. Poignantly so. But not today buddy. No letting go. You still remain the beginning of each day after being so much a part of each night staring in the darkness and thinking. Reminiscing. Reflecting. Yes, one day. Not in my control. But not today.
We love you.