Tuesday, March 9, 2010

She was often a bitch, but at the end I swear I saw her Athena-helmed and golden

The experience of having my mother take her life was enormously difficult and raised a lot of questions about what it meant to be a good daughter; I wasn’t sure if that meant trying to talk my mother out of killing herself, or helping her do it. I wrote the book in part to better understand that dilemma. [. . .] I was fortunate that in the last year of her life my mother talked about nothing else! Planning her death was her last great project. [. . .] I also wasn’t sure how seriously to take her. More than once, she changed her "death date," which made me think talking about suicide was a ploy for attention. [. . .] And so, after months of trying to talk her out of it, I accepted her decision and even admired her for being so strong and unblinking in the face of death. [. . .] One thing about my family, we’re all incredibly blunt and outspoken, but there is humor mixed in. So I could say to my mother, "Stop worrying about pruning the trees in your backyard. You’re going to be dead soon. Relax." And far from offending her, she delighted in that.

[. . .]

I think the time you spend with someone who is dying is extraordinary. I was with both my parents when they died and witnessing that profound event in their lives was incredibly moving. There is a way that you love someone when they are dying that is very pure, very uncomplicated and incredibly healing. All the old resentments and difficulties disappear. (Nelle Engoron, “Imperfect Ending: When mom wants to die,” 28 Feb. 2010)

She was often a bitch, but in the end I swear I saw her Athena-helmed and golden

We've long been pilling our kids, and now we're overdosing our parents: seems linked; sorta easy, actually -- in a the-road's-already-been-paved kinda way. We did it to our kids -- if we can be honest with ourselves for a moment -- just so that it makes "[a]ll the old resentments and difficulties disappear," as we focus our purely loving eyes upon the poor afflicted child whose difficulties AREN'T now about parental abandonment, or any such messiness, but about neurological something-or-another, and now we're doing it to our parents so we can think of them as brave and blunt (as they would have it) in an immature world, rather than those whose abuse inspired a lifetime of nowhere-near-addressed "resentments and difficulties."

If your lifetime experience of your parents was mixed with a good portion of resentments and difficulties, if your own life was inhibited/blocked owing to them, distrust any finish which has both you and your parent feeling transcendent. You make "next-stage," "pure love," seem like so much escapist blather: isn't "next-stage" really just another exit-stage-right (Don't bother me -- I'm planning my death)?; out of excitement of the moment, how can you feel true love for anyone who continually found means to shut people up, to shut you down?

Link: "Imperfect Ending": When Mom wants to die

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