broadsideblog

Posts Tagged ‘Death’

From wife to widow

In aging, behavior, blogging, books, domestic life, family, journalism, life, love, men, women on June 25, 2014 at 12:30 am

By Caitlin Kelly

IMG_20140508_093747431

There is a woman in our apartment building whose husband will soon die, at the absurd and frighteningly young age of 54. Maybe it’s 52.

All I can do is think of him, and pray for him and her and hope his death is as gentle as it can be.

He is not 16 or 25 or 40, true.

But he is young — and he is dying from a brain tumor and he was a lovely, smart, hard-working man who will soon leave behind a grieving younger wife and a teenage daughter from his first marriage.

We were not close friends, which is why I did not visit his bedside and got the news of his imminent demise from a neighbor.

He and I served on our co-op board together, a true test of character and grace under pressure!

And when my second book came out and I was struggling with some personal attacks, he explained to me — he, being a lawyer — what an ad hominem attack was and, more essentially, how to fight one effectively.

His compassion and wisdom touched me deeply.

And all I can think of is that — through nothing more than the shittiest fortune imaginable — his death soon transforms his wife into a widow.

Niva Dorell Smith, a fellow blogger, knows this nightmare as well, although she was younger, as was her husband Kaz, when he, too succumbed to a brain tumor.

She recently published her story about it on narrative.ly, married only 11 days before he died:

Three weeks later, I stood in a large warehouse, watching two men push a gurney towards me with a large cardboard casket on top. I wanted to see Kaz one more time. They wheeled the gurney before me, so I could see the word “Smith” written on top. Then they removed the cover.

I stared at him for a long time. His eyes were closed, and he was wearing the clothes I had given the men who picked him up ten days earlier, on May 3, 2011. He had all the same tattoos. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was looking at someone else. The Kaz I knew and loved was not in that box. I didn’t know where he was.

“Goodbye, babe. I love you.”

The men replaced the cover, opened the furnace door with gloved hands, and pushed him inside. The room suddenly felt warmer, and I sat down, lightheaded.

There is no good way I know of to lose the man (or woman) you adore. To whom you once said — praying it wouldn’t happen any time soon — “til death do us part.”

My handsome hubby, Jose

My handsome hubby, Jose, wearing seersucker (a NYT tradition) for June 21

Just cherish the hell out of them while you have them.

Getting older is a bitch — (and/or becoming one)

In aging, beauty, behavior, domestic life, life, seniors on March 6, 2013 at 2:05 am
Jazz Dance ¬ 0619

Jazz Dance ¬ 0619 (Photo credit: Lieven SOETE)

I had dinner recently with my friend G, a fellow writer. As we settled into a local restaurant for dinner — the music way too loud for comfortable conversation — we both kept saying “That music is too loud!”

Getting older is a bitch, kids.

What we really were talking about was how to handle the indignities and annoyances of aging.

We’re not that old, but we’re past 40, and things do start to look a lot different by then; friends have died far too young, parents are starting to become frail or ill and the endless mountain ranges of ambition we always planned to keep scaling are starting to just look exhausting.

“I’m going to be such a bitch when I’m older,” she said calmly. Me, too.

Because you’re running out of time, energy, strength and the endless determination to bounce back — from illness, divorce, a crappy betrayal, a crummy job.

Because, for better and worse, you simply have less stamina, physically and emotionally, for bullshit. If someone is petty or cruel or stupid or deceptive, in the old days I would have fake-smiled and sucked it up. Today? You’re gone!

Because…you can.

You don’t have to kiss as many butts as in your gogogogogogogogogo 20s and 30s, when you’re desperate to get into the right college/grad school/jobs/marriage.

Here’s a fab post from feminist site Jezebel about why your 30s are do-or-die, baby!:

What’s going on, I think, is the path-diverging choices that come with growing up. The thirties aren’t wildly different from your twenties, except for the part where the stakes feel so much higher. The carefree feeling of going out every night is replaced with a nagging voice that now reminds you of the repercussions, of what you should really be doing instead, and of the choices that may be slipping away, whether they are career, family, or fun. You are suddenly, irrevocably unable to waste time in the same way without chastising yourself.

By the time you’re in your 40s and beyond, you’ve done much of that, often several times (see: jobs, marriages.)

And we’re learning (resentfully!) that our energy has limits — even as she and I admitted to sitting at our computers for 10 hours a day when we write a major story.

I still, (thank God), can read without needing glasses. I still head off to jazz dance class and kick as high as some of the praying-mantis-thin chicks in their 30s. I plan to be back on the softball field this summer, after a three-year absence due to injury, surgery and recovery.

I’m also finally happy to see that my retirement savings — mine alone, even as a freelancer in a recession — have hit a number that actually makes all those years of scrimping feel worthwhile. I’d so much rather be in Paris/wear Manolos/drive a new car, but that growing number is deeply comforting.

Softball!

Softball! (Photo credit: * NightHawk24 *)

My role model is a woman on our floor, soon to turn 98. She recently fell, off the toilet, cutting her cheek and shoulder so badly she needed stitches. Her live-in nurse, who I see often, said, in awe: “She’s so strong!”

That’s what you need as you age. Strength: of character, of mind, body and spirit. A network of solid, loving friends. As much cash in the bank, and/or income, as you can possibly scrimp, scrape and save — start now, young ‘uns!

Aging also means less patience for whining or negativity. If you’re healthy, solvent and alive you’re way ahead of a lot of others starting their days with an IV in their arm or wondering when to finish making out their will or wincing in pain with every step.

By the time you’ve done a few decades, you start to feel like a grateful survivor, because you are.

The other night, for fun, I decided to Google a former beau, one of the most fun people I ever knew, a journalist-turned lawyer who fought hard for the rights of workers who’d been screwed over by their employers. Instead, to my shock, I found his obituary – dead of cancer at 57. It feels unimaginable.

It’s not.

Here’s a loooooong blog post on the topic, by an Australian blogger, with her 15 tips on how to age gracefully.

How do you feel about getting older?

Wallowing is never a good idea

In aging, behavior, blogging, Crime, domestic life, family, life, love, women on February 4, 2013 at 1:18 am
Death

Death (Photo credit: tanakawho)

Here’s a recent post chosen for Freshly Pressed that really hit a nerve:

And why does it still have to hurt so much?

When will it stop hurting?

Without question, I am over him. I no longer love him. I haven’t for a long time. I do not hate him. It would not bother me in the least if I never spoke to or saw him again. (Of course, this can’t happen (and I won’t allow it to happen), because we have Z and M.)

What I am not over is how much he hurt me. He’s not only hurt me, he’s hurt me in such a way as to have a long-term impact on any and all relationships I may have. He’s hurt me in such a way as to have a long-term impact on any and all relationships I already have.

When I need to talk to or just be in the presence of someone the most, I can’t bear the thought of it. I can’t bear the thought of confiding in someone else.

The depth of the pain is too much to bear.

The writer is a Canadian, a mother of two small children, whose husband cheated on her.

Keening  for seven years? Maybe she’s “ultra sensitive”, as this blogger describes herself.

And here’s a married, white, employed writer complaining in The New York Times that she is living in a friend’s ratty old house, at no cost:

I remind myself to have faith in something larger than the petty irritations of an old house. It’s been, as Dan has said, an “unconventional” way to take over a house.

That would be rent and mortage free, an opportunity millions of Americans would be happy to tackle.

In contrast, here’s an extraordinary story about a family whose 20-year-old son, Declan Sullivan, was killed at Notre Dame University in an accident. Their gracious response is inspiring, not tiring.

My impatience with whining is colored by my own experiences, and those of friends and family, who have coped from early childhood with serious illness, partners’ or parents’ premature death, mental illness, alcoholism, sexual abuse, repeated job loss, natural disasters.

Coping is a learned skill, as is resilience.

Canadian writer Paul Tough wrote a smart book on this subject:

Character is created by encountering and overcoming failure. In this absorbing and important book, Tough explains why American children from both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum are missing out on these essential experiences. The offspring of affluent parents are insulated from adversity, beginning with their baby-proofed nurseries and continuing well into their parentally financed young adulthoods. And while poor children face no end of challenges — from inadequate nutrition and medical care to dysfunctional schools and neighborhoods — there is often little support to help them turn these omnipresent obstacles into character-enhancing triumphs.

Jose and I, in our professional work as journalists, have witnessed horrific violence, death, war and fear for our own lives. People who choose our field know that working to tight deadlines against ferocious competitors means no one has time to coddle you, and insisting on it is a career-damaging choice.

When New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid died of an asthma attack while covering a story in Syria, his accompanying photographer Tyler Hicks carried his dead body into Turkey. Jose spent Christmas of 1995 in bitterly cold Bosnia, sleeping in an unheated metal cargo container, his holiday meal a packet of chicken soup, all he could find in the post-war madness there while working as a news photographer. He couldn’t shower for five weeks.

I faced my mother’s manic breakdown when I was 14, in Mexico, with very little help, and had to take care of a visiting friend, a girl my age who spoke no Spanish, while we figured it all out.

No one trains or prepares you for such moments. 

I recently had a long conversation with a new friend, a woman whose life has handed her a tremendous amount of personal stress, fear and worry, some of which is out of her control and ongoing. Yet she is chic, funny, smart, tough and resolutely un-whiny.

Clutching and sobbing tends to make me sigh and withdraw.

When the shit hits the fan, do you crumble?

Or deal?

Wandering the graveyard

In aging, behavior, culture, History, life, travel, urban life on June 22, 2012 at 1:11 am

Near the house I’m sitting in Vermont is a town with a small graveyard with some early stones. Early, of course, is a relative term in a nation as young as the United States.

I wandered there at sunset, the sun low and pearly in the sky. I was sweaty and sore from a major workout at the gym, feeling as alive and strong as I have in years. What better time to contemplate one’s mortality?

I always notice the same things in graveyards dating from the 18th. or 17th. century here — people who died at, then especially, a ripe old age in their 80s or 90s, but a large number of young wives in their early 20s and their tiny babies, some dead within a few days or weeks of their birth.

How must have life, and death, felt like then?

Women died in childbirth. Their babies died of a host of diseases for which modern medicines were far distant in the future: smallpox, scarlet fever, diphtheria, pneumonia, influenza. Doctors, if one even lived anywhere nearby, arrived at whatever speed their horse and muddy, icy or snowy roads allowed them — after being hastily summoned by someone riding, rowing or running at top speed to find them. Even then, they had only a limited armamentarium in their black leather bag.

Husbands might — as one man did in this cemetery I visited — have three or four wives in their lifetime.

How much more familiar and intimate the spectre of (early) death must have been.

Where I live, in a northern suburb of New York City, I was for many years puzzled by many small graveyards I’d spy as I turned back onto the highway. They’re shaded by thick, old trees, bordered with stone walls and a wrought-iron gate. I wrote a New York Times story about them, (how I often satisfy my curiosity about something), and discovered these had once been on family farmland, long since sold off, the graves left behind.

It’s so easy to forget who came before us and what their lives, and landscapes, were like. Early graveyards are a useful reminder.

Their marker stones are often very beautiful, with a skull or an angel, and deep incised script in red sandstone or white marble.

My husband is a Buddhist and wants me to cremate him and spread his ashes at our favorite lake in Quebec. I should choose the same method as, with no kids, I can’t see anyone going to kneel at my grave. My ashes, similarly, are probably best scattered into a Canadian lake from the back of a canoe, to the haunting cry of a loon.

If my husband dies before I do, who will even take care of my disposal and estate? Serious stuff I still have to decide and write into a longer and much more detailed will.

I have no idea where my grandfathers are buried, or my paternal grandmother. My maternal grandmother, a grande dame who squandered much of her considerable wealth, was cremated. My mother buried her ashes in a silver Russian tea caddy (what else? where else?) in a Toronto park. Yes, illegally. I have no idea where exactly…but I wave to her whenever the subway car passes through the Rosedale station, nearest to the park.

My maternal great-grandfather, a prominent businessman in Chicago in the late 19th. century, has a gorgeous mausoleum I hoped to visit when I was there last year, but ran out of time. At least I know he’s still there.

Do you ever visit cemeteries to which you have no personal attachment?

Why?

Two Sudden Deaths

In aging, domestic life, life, love, seniors on August 17, 2011 at 1:08 pm
Gravestone

His garage was next to mine, holding a red mid-size car. He was not a happy man, rarely smiling. His wife was frail. When we passed one another in the hallway or driveway, he almost never said hello.

Yesterday he dropped dead.

I came home just as the ambulance pulled up to our apartment building. I thought little of it, not because I’m callous,  but because our building is filled with people in their 70s, 80s and even 90s. It’s not an uncommon sight and, thankfully, the resident is usually home again within a few days.

Last week a gorgeous husky dog, always out with his blond owner for walks on our winding, hilly suburban street also died suddenly and unexpectedly.

Which explained a circle of hushed women whispering yesterday in the hallway.

Our lives are shaped by pattern, routine, the known and familiar.

Faces become visual wallpaper, the normal everyday background to our lives. The ones we take for granted. The ones we can lose, as two of my neighbors just did, without warning, in minutes.

Today, two pieces of it — a beloved pet, a valued friend and husband — are gone, ripped away, leaving behind the shocked and mourning.

They Taped Their Roommate And Outed Him On The Internet. Now He’s Dead.

In behavior, Crime, education, Media, men, news, parenting, politics on September 30, 2010 at 11:48 am
George Washington Bridge, spanning the Hudson ...

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s the price of intolerance — death:

“Had he been in bed with a woman, this would not have happened,” said Lauren Felton, 21, of Warren. “He wouldn’t have been outed via an online broadcast and his privacy would have been respected and he might still have his life.”

Gay rights groups say Tyler Clementi’s suicide makes him a national example of a problem they are increasingly working to combat: young people who kill themselves after being tormented over their sexuality.

A lawyer for Clementi’s family confirmed Wednesday that he had jumped off the George Washington Bridge last week. Police recovered a man’s body Wednesday afternoon in the Hudson River just north of the bridge, and authorities were trying to determine if it was Clementi’s.

Clementi’s roommate, Dhraun Ravi, and fellow Rutgers freshman Molly Wei, both 18, have been charged with invading Clementi’s privacy. Middlesex County prosecutors say the pair used a webcam to surreptitiously transmit a live image of Clementi having sex on Sept. 19 and that Ravi tried to webcast a second encounter on Sept. 21, the day before Clementi’s suicide.

The death of a Rutgers University freshman stirred outrage and remorse on campus from classmates who wished they could have stopped the teen from jumping off a bridge last week after a recording of him having a sexual encounter with a man was broadcast online.

Words fail me on this one.

When Your Husband Wants His Brain Frozen After Death — But You Don't

In behavior on July 11, 2010 at 12:08 pm
The skull and crossbones, a common symbol for ...

Image via Wikipedia

So turns out there a number of men who want their bodies or brains preserved after they die — so they can later be thawed out for a whole  new life…later.

Is this weird? Is this what you plan?

My sweetie, being a devout Buddhist, thinks about death a lot and wants to be cremated and has told me where to spread his ashes. I live in terrified denial of mortality (see, can’t even type the words “my mortality” without my stomach hurting) and figure no one would visit my grave anyway so probably best not to have one and where would my ashes go? A favorite spot like…France. Or the Saks shoe department.

Read this and tell me what you think:

Premonitions of this problem can be found in the deepest reaches of cryonicist history, starting with the prime mover. Robert Ettinger is the father of cryonics, his 1964 book, “The Prospect of Immortality,” its founding text. “This is not a hobby or conversation piece,” he wrote in 1968, adding, “it is the struggle for survival. Drive a used car if the cost of a new one interferes. Divorce your wife if she will not cooperate.” Today, with just fewer than200 patients preserved within the two major cryonics facilities, the Michigan-based Cryonics Institute and the Arizona-based Alcor, and with 10 times as many signed up to be stored upon their legal deaths, cryonicists have created support networks with which to tackle marital strife. Cryonet, a mailing list on “cryonics-related issues,” takes as one of its issues the opposition of wives. (The ratio of men to women among living cyronicists is roughly three to one.) “She thinks the whole idea is sick, twisted and generally spooky,” wrote one man newly acquainted with the hostile-wife phenomenon. “She is more intelligent than me, insatiably curious and lovingly devoted to me and our 2-year-old daughter. So why is this happening?”

Teen Mom Charged With Manslaughter After Her Dogs Kill Her Infant

In Crime, parenting on June 10, 2010 at 10:31 am
Sleep Like A Baby

Image by peasap via Flickr

This is the news story right now in Quebec, (in addition to the Grand Prix in Montreal), a terrible tale of a teen mom who stepped outside two days ago for a cigarette — to protect her newborn from second-hand smoke — in which time her two huskies attacked and killed the child. She lives in a small town about 40 miles east of Montreal.

She has already been charged with manslaughter by the Crown Attorney, (Canada’s version of a DA), prompting howls of outrage in the Gazette letters page and even an editorial in the Toronto-based, national Globe and Mail:

Parents who make mistakes are probably the norm, rather than an exception. Momentary lapses are common. Sometimes, babies and small children die as a result. They fall into hot tubs and drown. They wade out beyond their competence into lakes and drown. They fall off farm machinery. They are asphyxiated when sharing a bed with a parent. They fall out of windows.

It is rare that charges of manslaughter are laid in those deaths. Manslaughter requires a foreseeable risk of injury, and a marked departure from the standard of reasonable person. “The momentary lapse that a reasonable person would engage in is not meant to be caught by the criminal law,” says Sanjeev Anand, a law professor at the University of Alberta Law School. A marked departure implies gross negligence – “the absolutely egregious conduct that no reasonable person would engage in.”

There is some dispute about the facts…Her family says she was outside briefly; the police concluded after a short investigation (they charged her one day after the death) that she was outside for 20 minutes…

The state does not need to exact justice every time a child dies an accidental death, even where a parental lapse in judgment led to it. A grieving mother now needs to defend herself against a charge that her wrongful conduct killed her own baby. For a parent, the death of a baby is an excruciating punishment from which there is no parole. In the circumstances of this case, it is hard to see how laying a manslaughter charge serves the public interest.

Several of the letters in the Montreal Gazette raise the question of the mother’s age and likely low ncome — if she were 25 or 35, not 17 — would she have been charged, and so quickly?

As

Dying Blogger Eva Markvoort, 25, Killed By Cystic Fibrosis, Her Memorial Service Streamed Live Friday

In Health, Media, women on April 28, 2010 at 10:28 am

A powerful story, from CNN:

“Hello to the world at large,” she said in the video. “To my blog, to my friends, to everyone. I have some news today. It’s kinda tough to hear, but I can say it with a smile.” Propped in a hospital bed, Markvoort sat surrounded by her family. “My life is ending.”

Markvoort had cystic fibrosis, an incurable disease that causes mucus to accumulate in the lungs. For nearly four years, she narrated an unvarnished blog about life with a terminal disease. Even when it appeared unlikely that she would receive a second double lung transplant, the 25-year-old continued to chronicle life on her blog….

Markvoort started her blog in 2006 because hospitalized patients with cystic fibrosis were isolated because of infection. Alone in her hospital room at Vancouver General Hospital after visiting hours, she sought to connect with other patients by finding them online.

The blog’s name 65_RedRoses, originated from her childhood inability to pronounce cystic fibrosis; she, as have many other children with the disease, called it “65 roses.” Markvoort added the word red because it was her favorite color.

Markvoort was the subject of a Canadian documentary also called “65_RedRoses.” It showed her harrowing experiences with the disease: violent coughing, vomiting, IVs, the painful procedures that made her scream.

I have a soft spot for VGH because my mom spent six weeks there recovering from a six-hour neurosurgery that removed a four-inch-wide tumor from her brain. I found tremendous skill and compassion from their staff, from their warm social worker who comforted and helped me through it to her plain-spoken surgeon (and his son, a fellow MD), to her lovely physical therapist.

Dying has always been a pretty private affair. If sharing their end with millions of strangers offers comfort, what other remaining choices do the dying have?

In the same style that she had allowed her readers (who were often strangers) into her life, Markvoort’s family plans to hold a memorial service that will run in a live stream on her blog at 7 p.m. ET Friday.

“She indicated that she thought it would be a cool idea if whatever we did, was made available for her online blogging community,” her mother said.

A Death Foretold? Alexander McQueen's Final Collection Filled With Doves And Angels

In business, Fashion on March 12, 2010 at 2:01 pm
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11:  A private ambu...

His final exit.Image by Getty Images via Daylife

In the fashion world in recent years, there were few more iconoclastic or truly creative than British designer Alexander McQueen, who committed suicide a month ago today, on February 12, a week after the death of his mother. He died on the day he was to have attended her funeral.

His final collection was reviewed this week in The New York Times:

No collection dominated the Paris season quite like Alexander McQueen’s, and not because it represented the final work of the late designer. The 16 dresses and caped coats — each one different and all referencing 15th-century paintings or carvings — were exceptional because no one else thought to make such a personal and subtle connection to the function of art on human consciousness.

Mr. McQueen’s fashion often embraced historical styles, but rarely with more feeling and modern sense of purpose. He had details of medieval paintings, in particular Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights,” captured digitally and then woven into jacquard or embroidered. He cut each of the patterns himself.

Given the subject matter of the paintings, the imagery is necessarily gothic, glorious but also dark. Lions are embroidered in gold around the hem of a beautiful black silk caped dress. On the front of a long white dress are the slightly shadowed, downcast heads of two saintly figures. Above each is a dove in flight. The silk dress, with the details rendered in different shadings of gray, extends the figures’ robes to the hem, duplicating their swirls and folds in jacquard chiffon.

and much more compassionately and movingly by Christina Binkley in The Wall Street Journal:

What made the collection difficult to watch was the unmistakable impression that the designer was immersed in thoughts of the afterlife. Patterns on a gold brocade pant suit, on closer inspection, turned out to be angels, their wings spanning the torso. A floaty silk gown was imprinted with medieval images, the fabric folded back to place one white dove on the back of each shoulder.

Perhaps the eeriest insight into the designer’s final weeks was a dress imprinted with a scene from Bosch’s triptych “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” which shows the artist’s hellish conception of the afterlife.

The final look was a fitted jacket of gold-painted feathers over a white tulle skirt embellished with gold. It created an image of a gold-winged dove flying away.

I have never owned anything by him, nor would I have been likely to. But his ebullient creativity was a great pleasure for anyone who loves fashion and design.

To die at 40, by your own hand, is a terrible thing.

On her Times blog, Horyn wrote:

I’ve done a number of interviews with Mr. McQueen over the years, since the period when he was living and working in Hoxton Square, when the brash boy of London fashion, the creator of the “bumster” trousers, and I found him about as complex and beguiling as any human. He was enormously creative and intelligent — and funny and rude and fearless. He said what he thought — a rarity in the fashion establishment — and very often he could wind you up, toy with you, pull a bit of wool over your wide, innocent eyes.

But he was the real: a genuinely talented man. Soulful, deeply English and, of course, dark. He did have a dark, romantic side that surfaced in his collections. Depressed at times? I didn’t know him well enough to say so, but I would imagine he had his moments of despair. This is a tough business.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,452 other followers