August 19, 2007


I don't know why, but I keep thinking of death today. Well, not "death" per se, but of dead people. Maybe, it's because of all of the tragic events on the news lately, or maybe, it's because I just dreamed about my favorite cousin who died a few years ago. She was still young. We were the same age, only six weeks apart in age. Everytime that I dream about her, she is sad. Maybe, it is because of there being no closure in the event...a phrase that I don't like, and is way overused to my way of thinking. Is there ever any such thing, really? Especially to the one who has lost someone they love?

My aunt, her mother, is still grieving over the death of her daughter, even though it has been nearly eight years, now. That's because she feels in her heart that it was not due to natural illness, but that it was something that was done to her, and now she has no way of ever finding out the truth. No closure.

My mother had five brothers, and two sisters. Only one sister survives, and all the rest, except for one older brother, died within two or three years of each other, including my mother, who died six years ago. At the funeral of my cousin, another of my young cousins, Butch, said that it was too bad that everyone got together only at funerals. Eight months later, his dad, my Uncle Seals, died. Six weeks after that, Butch died suddenly. In a span of two years, after the death of my mother, one of my stepsisters, a stepbrother, my favorite sister-in-law, and two very good friends died. They've all been on my mind lately.

Two years ago, a young cousin drove his pickup to his favorite place, high up on a mountain. He climbed into the bed of the truck, and sucked on a hose he had attached to the exhaust. It was in the hot summertime, and they didn't find him for five days. No one knows why. No closure.

This past June, a thirty year old cousin, was found dead of an overdose. Ironically, she had been to the same doctor who was in the news lately concerning the wrestler who killed his wife and son. She picked up her prescriptions that day, and she was dead the next morning. Her death is still under investigation. No closure.

What is that really--closure? Does it mean that it's okay that someone died, they are dead and gone? Does it mean one has come to terms with it, and accepts it for what it is, a final farewell, at least in this life?

I had one real brother. By that I mean that he was not a step-sibling. The thing is, I never really knew him very well. When my parents divorced, my dad kept kidnapping him from my mother who was awarded custody, and in those days there was no such thing as Women's Rights, so there was nothing she could do about it. So, I didn't ever see my brother until I was fourteen years old, and he was a stranger. Many years passed before I saw him again, and he was still a stranger.

When our mother became so ill, and I was taking care of her, he started coming around, pretty often. Soon afterwards, his wife divorced him, and I didn't see much of him, but talked to him, daily, on the phone.

When we moved up here, four years ago, we still talked daily. One day, he mentioned that he had been to the doctor, and had some tests, and they had seen something on an xray, and the doctor thought that he might have cancer. He smoked five packs of cigarettes a day. He joked about it, just the way he joked about everything. He said that he was about to take a trip on that long black train, or something like that, referring to a song .

The thing that I had found out about my brother was that he could either tell the truth about something, or a lie--it didn't much matter. So I didn't even know if what he said was true.

A few days went by, and he didn't call. I called him, and his phone had been disconnected. I didn't know his address. I didn't know his friends. I did everything to try to find out what had happened, and always came to a dead end.

The last time I had talked to him, had been in April that year. In February, my husband got a call from his company's headquarters. They said that they had a phone number for his wife to call.

I called the number. It was someone who had known my brother. He told me that my brother had died the day before. He died of lung cancer. It seems that he never went back to the doctor that April, and then he became so ill that he went to the hospital on that Friday in February. They sent him to some kind of hospice facility the next day, Saturday. He was dead on Sunday.

His friend said that he had gone there to see him, and asked if there was anyone that he needed to call, and he told him no. He asked him if he didn't have a sister, somewhere, and did she know where he was. He asked if he wanted him to call his sister for him? He told him that he had just talked to me that morning. He asked him if he wanted him to call a priest or a rabbi, and he told him no, and became angry and told him that he had better not call one.

I don't know why he told him that...I don't know why he didn't want me to know anything about anything that was happening to him. I don't know anything except that he was almost penniless. I do know that I would have tried to help him. I do know that I gave his friend permission to scatter his ashes on our mother's grave...because that is what he wanted. He wanted no service of any kind...only to be cremated. I complied. That was the only, the final, thing that I could ever do for him. Doing that, for me, was closure.


pepektheassassin said...

What a sad memory you have of all these people. I am writing (well, have written) a book about a young Jewish artist whose mother committed suicide when she was eight, also her aunt and an uncle, and grandmother....she was afraid she might find herself drawn to the same self-destructive acts, but decided instead to live all of their lives for them. She died in Auschwitz in 1943. (I am revising and rewriting).

Jan said...

I'm sure that it's going to be a very interesting book.

I enjoy reading all books about the plight of the holocaust victims, and the survivors.

When I worked, one of our patients was one of the survivors. The tatoo was still visible on his forearm, and I would get a lump in my throat each time I saw it.

rockync said...

I think at certain ages in our lives, we begin to think about death and how it affects us. I remember being about 8 years old and inconsolable for several weeks as I cried daily at the thought of my parnets ever dying.
When in my early 30's I became very ill and death was on my mind yet again. Over the years, friends and family passed on and the subject was revisited whenever there seemed to be a spate of deaths.
Death is a mystery to us and therefore a cause for concern as we try to come to grips with the notion that, until we die, we can't ever answer the question of what comes after.
You're right, closure is a meaningless term. It's meant to indicate that you have answers and are at peace. I think we can find peace without all the answers and perhaps never find peace even with the answers. Will we miss those that have gone any less? Not likely. When one leaves us, it creates a tear in the fabric of our lives. Over time, the tear knits itself together and our lives go on, but the scar that tear creates always remains as a reminder of that person.
Sorry, didn't mean to write a book here.

Jan said...

Even if there are answers to questions concerning the death of a loved one, there may never be any that are good enough.

Some say that they fear death, and some say that they have no fear of dying.

I think we all fear the unknown.

sue said...

My mother died when I was small and it was always such a big "hush hush" thing that it intrigued me more than it probably would have if my family would have just talked about it. Some days she'll be on my mind as if it just happened... I'm not sure there really is such a thing as closure, I think you just move on to a different level of acceptance where you don't dwell on it as much.

You've really had a lot of loss in your life, haven't you?

Jan said...

Sue, I'm sorry for your loss. I think it is especially sad when a child loses a parent.

You are right about it being worse when it is not talked about to the child.

I was just getting ready to post something along the same line.

k said...

I don't put a lot of stock in closure, either. I've heard some people who said they got closure and were glad of it. But mostly, it seems like people see it as some sort of natural right. They can get very angry at policemen or doctors or relatives or the army or whatever, feeling those entities have somehow denied them closure.

If it exists, it's more likely to come from within. Most seem to be looking for a purely external act.

I can see a sort of ending type of closure, like when you buried your brother. That's part of what funerals are for in the first place, isn't it? You say your goodbyes and put the deceased *to rest,* and then sometimes have a get-together afterward, and then you all go home. And that part, at least, is over.

Jan said...

'If it exists, it's more likely to come from within. Most seem to be looking for a purely external act.'

k...a pearl of pure wisdome.

Funerals are not really for the dead...they're for the living.