— 13 April 2007 —

Proximity Makes The Heart Grow Weaker

UPDATE: Well. She died today April 18, 2007 at 13:05 Alaska Time. Thanks everyone for your words of support.

It’s hard to go home. Harder when home is 3500 miles away. Harder still when your mom is dying.

My mom is dying.

I am sitting on the plane as I write this., waiting to take off for the final leg of my journey that started yesterday right after work when I got “the call” from my dad. At each step since that call, I’ve wanted someone, anyone, to tell me it’s okay to stay home in Massachusetts instead of having to travel to Alaska on 12 hours’ notice.

I am weak like that. I fear death.

I know I am not unique in this respect, but right now all I have are my thoughts. If you know me, you know I let my thoughts (my imagination) get the better of me when I don’t talk about things.

I fear death.

I don’t want to see my mom die. Obviously I don’t want her to die at all, but here I mean I don’t want to see it. My mom, the mom of my memory, is a strong woman. Because of her illness her body is failing her. She hasn’t been able to do pretty much anything on her own for many weeks. I know it has been frustrating for her.

When my dad called yesterday I was in a meeting. I went back to my office to return the call. Within a few minutes I was sitting on the floor, crying. It must have been an odd sight for my co-worker friend Katya when she came to say good night before leaving for the day. She sat with me until I’d finished on the phone. Thank you, Katya. Spassibo.

I spent the rest of the evening trying to get a plane ticket to Anchorage without getting screwed by the cost. I couldn’t get the bereavement fare for the early flight, the one that would get me there in the afternoon, so $1400 later I had a ticket.

While I was on the phone with the ticketing agent (I called since I got conflicting info from all the travel sites) I did a little Grief 2.0 online. (Yes, I am sad right now, but my humour sneaks in now and again.) I Twittered about my mom. I’d like to thank Bryan Veloso & Jen Verduzco, Kevin Cheng, Faruk Ateş, and Mike Stickel for their kind words in response (via Twitter, natch).

I wish I didn’t have primarily interweb-based friendships. Or perhaps what I wish is to be a better friend; better at friendship. The distance that inevitably arises is similar to the distance between me and my parents.

Most children grow up (in Amerika at least) to be distant from their parents, I suppose. I don’t know mine very well. I know they love me and I do love them (even though I have a hard time expressing it) but I’ve never… taken an interest?… been curious?… about them as individuals beyond their role as parent.

It’s not like we are strangers. I don’t mean to paint a picture of awkward silences during phone conversations punctuated by non-sequiturs about the likelihood of the Cubs playing October ball. Certainly that happened, but it was never a matter of course.

Funny Strange or Funny Ha Ha?

In the summer of 1990, or at least that is when I am choosing to place this memory my friend Suzanne said something that instantly made itself apparent as memorable and quotable: “Death is a funny thing. One minute you’re talking to someone and the next they don’t exist.”

At the time, it struck a chord (obviously, as I just terms it memorable and quotable) as being true. I don’t know if I believe it outright anymore.

I do believe the person, as they were at the moment of their death, may be the one that ceases to exist. But I also believe the person that was you when last we connected still exists as part of me.

We take that of people which is freely given and perhaps (undoubtedly) a little more. We keep that person with us, regardless of access to the memories, until we decide it’s time to go ourselves. I won’t surmise what comes after except to say it’s probably something we well deserve.

I need to leave it here for now.

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