Alzheimers


Although this book, What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence, edited by Michele Filgate, came out in time for Mother’s Day, I don’t know that it would have been a great gift for your mother. It is very much as advertised, essays about what the authors don’t discuss with their mothers — not all bad, and some of them have lovely relationships with their mothers, but all pretty intense essays.

For me, reading this collection was a form of Mother’s Day self-care. A reminder that relationships with mothers and motherhood are complicated, and that I’m not alone in not celebrating Mother’s Day and having no desire to do so even when I become a mother. I could definitely see how for others, reading this would not be an act of self-care. Most of the authors have come to a place of acceptance, or at least a place where they can put their feelings into words. And I too have come to a place where everything isn’t so raw; my Mom has been gone for nearly a year and a half, I’ve gotten through all the first holidays, and she was sick for years. Do I still have regrets? Did I still cry when people at work casually asked what everyone was doing for Mother’s Day? Sure. But somehow, for me, this book was like spending time with people who get it.

The book is a collection of fifteen essays, and the intro makes clear that what the editor was going for here was talking more about how complicated mothers can be, breaking you silence about what your relationship is with your mother, because you aren’t alone:

For even a brief instant of time, every single human being has a mother. That mother-and-child connection is a complicated one. Yes we live in a society where we have holidays that assume a happy relationship. Every year when Mother’s Day rolls around, I brace myself for the onslaught of Facebook posts paying tribute to the strong, loving women who shaped their offspring. … There’s a huge swath of people who are reminded on this day of what is lacking in their lives – for some, it’s the intense grief that comes with losing a mother too soon or never knowing her. For others, it’s the realization that their mother, although alive, doesn’t know how to mother them.

I also thought the various essays did a lovely job of acknowledging what a difficult thing it is to be a mother. Society puts so much on mothers, we want them to be everything, so that even when they are wonderful, they can still fail to be everything:

We were talking about the impossible position [mothers] are placed in, the ways in which they are our models; we were talking about what little space moms have to also need and also want. … There is a gaping hole perhaps for all of us, where our mother does not match up with “mother” as we believe it’s meant to mean and all it’s meant to give us. What I cannot tell [my mother] is all that I would tell her if I could find a way to not still be sad and angry about that.

There is a lot of what I would call child abuse and child neglect and mental illness in these essays. Some of these people were horribly abused by their mothers. Others, have beautiful relationships with their mothers, which read together is kind of a perfect balance:

When [my mother] arrived in the hospital after my daughter was born, I sat there on the starched sheets holding my baby, and she held me, and I cried uncontrollably — because I could finally understand how much she loved me, and I could hardly stand the grace of it.

For those with terrible relationships with their mother, some of the happier essays might be more difficult to read, but even though for me, that passage above hurts to read (my mother won’t be meeting her grandchildren, we won’t have this moment), inside the whole collection, it works so well to tell all these very different stories. What you don’t talk about with your mother is different for everyone. For some, it’s something unspeakably hard, her cruelty or her inability to love as you should have been loved, but for others, the love was there, and things were still complicated. You were still separate people, and there were (or are) things you didn’t talk about.

Strong recommend, if you’re in the right place.

Currently reading: Totally skipped over to The Mars Room last night, and put everything else aside for the moment.

This past week I read two memoirs, both of which cover very specific periods of the author’s life — in Glynnis Macnicol’s No One Tells You This we hear about Macinol’s early forties as she creates her own way to be a woman alone and okay with it and in Peter Sagal’s The Incomplete Book of Running we hear mostly about Sagal’s rebirth as a runner in his 40’s as he was getting divorced.

I enjoyed both, and although there was sadness in The Incomplete Book of Running it was a nice counterbalance to No One Tells You This, which I found quite sad. Now, don’t get me wrong, Macnicol’s book is very powerful as well — about how we live in this moment where for the first time really women have choices and can choose to be alone and childless and not be say, doomed to be eaten by their cat. That’s not the life Macnicol lives and she is not at all worried about being eaten by her cat. BUT. Her mother dies, of Parkinson’s, but of a variant of Parkinson’s that presents very strongly with dementia. And that hits me hard. Usually when I read about other people struggling with losing family members to dementia, I don’t relate all that much. My Mom was very young, I was very young, and her illness while interminable while it was happening, moved very very quickly and took her in only four years. But crappily for both of us, Macnicol’s mother’s illness had a lot of similarities, and well, it seems like we just really saw the illness in similar ways. That made this a very sad book for me, even if I was bookmarking every page like, SHE GETS IT.

So most people I think will read this as an interesting and powerful story of new options that are open to women. Macnicol takes us through the years where she started figuring this out:

I reveled in the fact that I was being jetted away on someone else’s dime and that I’d finally reached the point in my life where my career, and to some degree, financial has aligned to produce the life I’d fantasized about, though I couldn’t help but lament the fact that I was likely going to be doing it alone. All my other halves now had their own other halves to travel with or young kids who made travel difficult. Just as my life was catapulting me into some great beyond, theirs were tying them down to routines and caregiving – decades of both. … I had to be prepared to have adventures alone.

I loved her take down of, you’re going to regret not getting married, not having a kid, etc:

I wasn’t going to have a baby as an insurance policy against some future remorse I couldn’t yet imagine. I had more respect for myself than that. The truth was, no one knows what they’re missing in the end. You can only live your own life, and do your best with the outcome when you roll the dice.

This is sort of the crux of her book — no choices are bad. The power of this book is in telling the story of a woman choosing differently, and realizing there are different paths for women than have ever truly been available before. Although she is very honest about the emotional labor that is expected of a woman, and how sometimes when you don’t hit your own milestones, it can feel difficult to keep showing up for others again and again. But not because she’s bitter, or because she wants what they have, so much as because, when you have a baby, people know what to do and how to act (sort of…). But when you’re just sinking for some other reason, it can be hard to ask for help, and there’s no automatic jumping in of your friends as there can be for other life events.

Additionally, Macnicol isn’t anti-kid, and her story shows just how much kids and caregiving can be a part of your life, even if you don’t choose wife/mom — I loved her description of her nephew:

Babies are like that. They appear, tear themselves a hole in the world, and somehow it becomes immediately impossible to remember a time when that space did not exist.

If you read and enjoyed Rebecca Traister’s All The Single Ladies, this feels very much like a companion book to that to me.

Peter Sagal’s book is perhaps not as funny as you’d expect if you’re only familiar with him from the NPR news quiz Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. But I happened to catch him talking about this book on RadioTimes (yeah… I listen to a lot of NPR and I read The New Yorker, I am very much that person…) and it was a great interview, so I found this book at my library.

There’s a fair amount of sadness in the book because of Sagal’s divorce (“Instead of a ‘conscious uncoupling’ it was turning into a brush war”), his honestly about his depression and body image issues, and the fact that he was about a 100 yards away when the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon in 2013. All that said, Sagal doesn’t want to force you to look at his pain, he kind of wants to make you laugh. So this somehow is not that intense of a book.

I am a runner, and so I enjoyed reading about Sagal’s love of running, and I related to some of what he says (but not all, despite not being a 50 year old man, I am much slower than he is, I do not think I will ever run a sub-5 hour marathon let alone a 3:09):

By the time I got to mile 22 … I would have quit happily, except that if I ever wanted to finish a marathon, I’d have to run twenty-two miles allover again and that seemed far more painful than the measly four miles I had to limp through now. … [At the finish line] I said to myself something I did not expect to hear myself say, something that became a hinge between my former life and my present, and led to, among many, many other things, the writing of this book.

“I wonder if I could do that faster.”

I totally relate to wanting to give up at mile 22 of a marathon, but I didn’t finish and decide to do another. I finished and decided half-marathons were great and you can finish them, take a nap, and feel fine! But, I did end up running my one and only marathon because I finished a half-marathon and thought, huh, I could do more.

I think a lot of people,sadly, will also relate to Sagal’s feeling about his body, although I love how he can make it sort of funny:

“If you’ve ever been fat, you will either be fat for the rest of your life or you will worry about being fat for the rest of your life.” I came across those words in the manuscript of the place Fighting International Fat, by Jonathan Reynolds, a pretty obscure place to find the underlying thesis of your waking life … That casual observation struck me then and now with the profound power of its obvious truth, much like Kafka’s observation: “The meaning of life is that it ends.” But of course, Kafka did not add that once you’re dead, you won’t gain weight. Which is a comfort to me, sometimes.

This is pretty much the tone of the whole book, walk up to a serious subject, poke it with a stick, and get out with a laugh. But maybe if that’s the way to be honest about how you feel, that’s the way to do it. The book doesn’t feel raw and honest quite the same way as Macnicol’s does, but well, they are rather different people.

Currently reading: Salvage the Bones and The Interestings (yeah, going back a few years to read more by Wolitzer and Ward).

WHAT!? Another blog post like right away? Yeah. It may have taken me a while to get the last one down, and I then finished both of these books today.

9781501180910American Like Me by America Ferrera is, I think, meant to be more of a coffee table book. It’s a bit uneven, as you might expect from a collection of essays by a ton of different people. There’s also sort of a range of theme, everyone in the book is an immigrant or a child of immigrants, so many write about their experience immigrating, or their parents, or they write about key cultural traditions. Some really seem to be on the theme of what it means to them to be American.

I would say, reading this cover to cover is not necessarily advisable. I think you could easily just read the best stories in here and call it a day. I enjoyed reading about Roxanna Gay’s Haitian parents, who never stop parenting — Gay is a fabulous and hilarious writer. Ravi Patel’s story was hilarious, and made me want to see the documentary he and his sister made (Meet the Patels). Lin-Manual Miranda’s was short and felt a little phoned in. Randall Park’s was great both because he’s a funny guy and because his essay sparked a new understanding of his family — his parents had never really told him about their past, but for this essay, they let him interview them and now he knows all this stuff about them! Talk to your parents and you grandparents while you can, hear their stories.

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity by Carl Zimmer has been the work of MONTHS. It’s a whopping 574 pages, and fairly densely packed with science. Fortunately, Zimmer is an excellent writer and this is certainly a book science for the masses, so I wasn’t totally at sea. This book could really have been five of six books, but a big part of Zimmer’s point is that heredity is a huge topic. We act like heredity is just genes, but man, genes themselves are complicated, and then you add in the issues of epigenetics and culture (human ability to teach each other things and pass them down is a huge part of what separates us from our closest chimp relatives).

I strongly recommend this book. I’d like to read it again to be honest because it just contains so much, and I feel like I retained so little. Reading about mosaics and chimera was FASCINATING. Look, chimeras are so cool, okay? Did you know that most women who have children become chimeras? Like, even if you’re a surrogate, you probably have fetal cells from a kid that isn’t biologically yours floating around in your body forever! And they don’t just hang out as fetal cells, they like become part of your lung OR YOUR BRAIN. I find it rather comforting that our mother’s cells may very literally be living on in each of us — you may be a chimera too.

Relatedly to that, much of this book filled me with a sense of hope and a sense of dread. Anyone with a parent who died of a potentially heritable condition would probably feel the same, you wonder what might be waiting for you in your genes. But at the same time, Zimmer really makes it seem like science is proceeding along at a break-neck pace of amazing discoveries! Surely we will cure everything in the next 30 years…?

The cultural portions of the book were fascinating too, and reminded me of Theory of Bastards, discussing how humans have developed to be much friendly with each other than most of our monkey ancestors, with the result that we can pass down the lessons we learn about how to survive.  Related to culture, I also learned that Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” in 1976! That’s so early! Like, he hadn’t even seen the honey badger video 🙂

The whole final section of the book is about CRISPR, which I felt like I understood so much better after reading 100 pages about it, although I’m still sort of like, “So, it works with magic?” Zimmer also really distances himself from the insane hype of what horrors CRISPR might do. Not by ignoring them, he’s very clear that CRISPR presents many moral and ethical issues, but he refuses to sink to the click bait level of discussion or fearmongering.  It’s definitely a nuanced and interesting discussion of what we can do and what we might be able to do.

I could basically talk about this book forever (almost certainly getting much of the science wrong). Don’t be intimidated by the size of the book, definitely pick this one up.

Currently reading: Limetown and Fear (!! came in at the library, now I’ll know what everyone was talking about six months ago).

I know, a whole eight days without knowing what all I’ve read 🙂 I’ll keep these a little short because I read quite a bit this week…

First, And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan

O’Connell. I think the audience for this book is pretty specific — O’Connell is a kind of a stereotypical New Yorker in a number of ways and I could see that it might be difficult for women who have had very different lives by the time they are 29 to identify with O’Connell being unready for kids at that point. But this is a hilarious and honest book about one woman’s experience having a baby and getting through that first year. She really honestly shows you how difficult things can be even when they work out, and how difficult things can be when they do not work out. And she makes it to the other side of that first year.

 

Next up was Halsey Street by Naima Coster. This is another book from the list of 46 books by women of color to read in 2018.  This was not exactly a happy book, but it’s a great novel that really delves into mother/daughter and father/daughter relationships. It also has a lot to say about gentrification in NYC. The book alternates between Penelope’s (the daughter) perspective, and her mother Mirella’s as well as occasionally going back in time to the early days of Mirella and Ralph (husband/father).  I absolutely recommend this one, although its not one of my absolute favorites of the year (so far).

 

After this, I decided to read a few lighter books — The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
and The Book of Essie by Megan Maclean Weir. I’ve seen The Wedding Date on a few different lists, I’d passed on it due to the horrible title, and I have to say, I’m not really sure why everyone is raving about this book? It’s a pretty typical rom-com romance type novel, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. My best guess is that there’s just literally nothing else out there in this romance category that tackles race at all (girl is black, boy is white in this book and there are a few actual conversations about race) and includes an articulate woman?? I didn’t really like it.

I did like The Book of Essie which is kind of a combination of a few things that have really happened… The book is about the youngest daughter of a very Christian family 9780525520313who have been the stars of a reality tv show for her entire life. Essentially, the book is about how she escapes from her family and the very dark things that have been done to her by her family. There are some pretty dark themes in the book, but nothing ever really goes wrong once the plot gets going, which didn’t seem completely believable. But for a book I read on the beach, I’m letting it go. This may not be everyone’s idea of a beach read, there’s some pretty disturbing plot twists (sexual assault/child molestation – come on does that count as a spoiler? I told you it reminded me of several recent real scandals with very Christian tv families…).

 

After these two, I decided to transition back to less of a beach read but one that’s been on my list for a long time – The Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdich. Gosh this is a horribly depressing book. The comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale are warranted, both are about how women’s bodies can become the property of others. Although TFHLG is almost a prequel? The Handmaid’s Tale brushes over the ‘how we got here’ part of the story, instead focusing on the life of Offred after she’s become a handmaid. If you haven’t read it, you must. And I really must get back to the Margret Atwood books that have been on my bedside table for… a while… TFHLG is all about the change over, how we go from a moment sort of like today  to the Handmaids Tale kind of world. This book says a lot of interesting things about the relationships between mothers and daughters — biological mothers and adoptive mothers. But be warned, do not make my mistake! This is not a beach read…

Thoroughly depressed, I finished out the week with How Hard Can It Be by Allison Pearson. This is a sequel to I Don’t Know How She Does It, which I loved long ago. I loved that book so much that, although I was doubtful about whether a sequel would really work, I bought this book in Hardcover. This is generally Not Done in my family. You get the book out of the library, if you really like it, you may buy the paperback. So I guess that tells you how much I loved the original book. The original is about a working mom trying to make it working in the cut throat world of London’s financial markets while also raising two kids with a husband who just doesn’t really help. Kate, the main character, has some of the same wit that so many women fell in love with in the Bridget Jones books, but I loved her because unlike Bridget, Kate is not an idiot. She’s great at her incredibly hard, stressful job.

How Hard Can It Be picks up about 8 years down the road, Kate’s taken some time sort of off work to take care of her kids and mom, and she’s trying to get back into work, dealing with teenagers, dealing with menopause, and there’s an old flame from the first book. It sounds a bit silly, and it is, but well, this is my idea of a beach read — not complete trash with a plot so thin you almost can’t bare to read it, but not so depressing that you have a panic attack when you’re on vacation. Although OF COURSE someone in this book has Alzheimer’s. I mean, just because it’s the 6th leading cause of death in America and about 5.7 million people are currently living with it, does it have to be in every book I try to escape in this year? Apparently there is no escape.

Currently reading: Started Theory of Bastards on vacation, not sure what will come after that yet — only four books out of the library right now! Back to work on Monday, but the reading will continue, if not another 6 books this week…

Also for those of you keeping score at home, I’m at 61 books for 2018 🙂

I really enjoyed this book (by Aminatta Forna);

someone is definitely getting it for Christmas. I don’t know whether it’s good or insufferable, but reading lots of books makes it really easy for me to Christmas shop. I only give books, gift cards, and charitable donations. It really simplifies things. Well, that’s my lifestyle blog tip for the day, on to the book.

Here are the basics. This is the story of two people, who meet on the street in London randomly and the first week and a half they spend together-ish in London. Attila is a large African man (from Accra, Ghana), a psychiatrist who works with genocide/war/atrocity survivors around the world and is in London to give the key note address at a conference; Jean is an American (New Englander) who runs studies of urban coyote and fox populations working in London. The two meet on a bridge when Jean, following a fox, bumps into Attila. The two then fall into friendship, Jean (along with a small army of Africans mostly from Ghana and Sierra Leon who work as garbage men, doormen, street performers, in hotels in London) helps Attila find a friend’s little boy and take care of him, Attila also deals with a close friend/former lover with Early Onset Alzheimer’s (THIS WAS NOT ON THE BOOK COVER BLURB BUT IT JUST REALLY FIGURES), and Attila also consults as an expert on a case where a woman is accused of arson and her lawyers are trying to get Attila to get her off by saying she has PTSD. It’s much more complicated, but you get the point. There is also quite a bit about urban foxes, coyotes, and wolves.

What is difficult to describe is how much this book delves into grief (and happiness), recovery, how humans treat one another, what humans expect from him, how life experiences impact each of us. Some of it is quite depressing, Attila tells Jean:

I’m not being cynical, just realistic. War is in the blood of humans. The kind of people who torture and rape during war, they’re always among us, every time you walk down a busy street you’re passing killers waiting to kill. War gives them license. We tell ourselves people are ordinarily good, but where’s the proof of that? There are no ordinarily good people, just a lot of people who’ve never been offered the opportunity to be anything else.

Gah. I mean. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I want to. Attila has quite a few REALLY depressing insights, but he also manages to be a confident problem solver, so I’d want him by my side were I looking for a small boy lost in London, dealing with a dying woman, or helping with a kidnapping hand-off in a war torn country.

Attila thinks a lot about how people react to the difficulties in life; he’s a psychiatrist so he recognizes some people are mentally ill, but he pushes convention a bit, in a way I agree with — sometimes you’re not experiencing PTSD or depression, or anything clinical, sometimes you’re experiencing emotions. Sadness, grief, these can be appropriate to the situation, even if they are long lasting, that doesn’t mean that you’re damaged — it’s the difference between someone who has a major depressive episode, and someone who’s husband dies and they’re sad, they’re not themselves exactly, they will become a new slightly different person, but they’re doing it, they’re dealing with their emotions (Attila, explaining the forty day mourning period to a Brit says “It is the end of formal mourning, not the end of sorrow”). It takes time certainly, but you can come out stronger on the other side:

There is nothing inevitable about the impact of trauma, except perhaps the way the victim is going to be treated by professionals like us, who will then ascribe every subsequent difficulty in their lives to what has happened to them in the past. We don’t blame victims any longer, instead we condemn them. We treat them like damaged goods and in doing so we compound the pain of whatever wound has been inflicted and we encourage everyone around them to do the same. The fact of the matter is that most people who have endured trauma do so without lasting negative effects, be we overlook the ones who cope because we [psychiatrists] never see them. It’s a simple logical fallacy. You already have the answer, so you construct the supporting argument. Trauma causes suffering, suffering causes damage. But what we don’t know is whether the absence of adverse life events creates the ideal conditions for human development. We just assume it does. … What is life without incident? Is such a life even possible? How do we become human except in the face of adversity?

Sorry, that’s rather long, but it’s sort of the point of the book as far as I’m concerned. And I think this quote helps make clear I am BY NO MEANS belittling mental illness. But, not every bad thing that happens causes mental illness. No one can live a life where nothing bad happens, the bad things make you who you are. Sometimes, they are truly terrible things. A life without sadness of some sort is impossible, and yet, so many of us get up every morning and face the day.

Attila has a rather pragmatic view of the world, he explains near the beginning of the book, “You know, a lot of people nowadays believe they’re owed a happy ending.” The nice thing about this book though, is that it does have lots of happy endings. Lots of sad things happen, but many people end up okay.

There are many other things I could say about this book, many other passages that touched me or made me think. But I’ll spare you and suggest you read the book.

Currently reading: And Then We Had Everything: On Motherhood Before I was Ready by Meghan O’Connell. And currently taking 10 books on vacation with me next week. So… no posts for a while, but I’ll have plenty to talk about when I’m back on June 30.

I didn’t finish this book. I didn’t like it for the first fifty pages — the style is very different, it’s written sort of as a play without stage directions, all dialogue.  And, about half of it is quotes from historical sources about Lincoln.  It owes a debt to Thorton Wilder’s Our Town — although the concepts of death in the two are a bit different, there’s the same idea that the dead we bury may simply be waiting in the cemetery, talking with each other.

I started to get into this book around 100 pages in, the format wasn’t bothering me as much, I was starting to like the characters that are in the cemetery with Willie Lincoln. But I’m not going to finish this book any time soon. Because the same day that I got into reading it, I got the call that my Mom was dying.  And she did.

So I will say, Lincoln’s grief in this book as written by George Saunders felt very accurate to me. His comfort with the body of Willie Lincoln resonated.  The hard thing is not being with the body of your loved one.  The hard thing is letting this last thing that you have go.  The hard thing is trusting your loved one’s body to strangers, and knowing that you won’t see her again.

Just finished Practical Magic (by Alice Hoffman) and It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree (A.J. Jacobs) and very nearly done with A Grief Observed (C.S. Lewis).

Every time I try to just pick up a book, I feel like it ends up being about mom’s dying or dying or Alzheimer’s.  I keep picking up books so I guess I don’t mind too much.  But I was definitely like, YOU ARE KIDDING ME when I was reading It’s All Relative which is about Jacob’s hosting a Global Family Reunion with the idea of creating a little more peace in the world by showing how we’re all related to each other, and he decides to donate any proceeds from the event to Alzheimer’s research.  I mean, good pick because it is the sixth leading cause of death and we have no cure, no real treatment, and I have no words to describe its horror. But still man, come on.

Practical Magic on the other hand was a delightful escape for the most part.  I picked it up because apparently Alice Hoffman’s newest book also deals with the characters and I realized I’d never read it (and all my recent reads have been nonfiction and I needed to mix it up).  From a writing standpoint, I was really trying to figure out how she wrote it so seamlessly — the book doesn’t have chapters it has sections, and within those sections she goes for pages and pages without segregating the thoughts beyond starting a new paragraph. Everything just blends into the next part of the story.  I also enjoy the fact that it basically ends happily for everyone.  Nothing wrong with that, okay.

You need to read Vacationland, but I think you’re okay if you never read It’s All Relative. Totally your choice on Practical Magic also.

You’re probably wondering why I picked up A Grief Observed if I was looking for a delightful escape, and the answer is, of course I knew what I was getting into.  I’ve been reading a lot of books about grief and memoirs that touch heavily on grief (The Bright Hour, The Year of Magical Thinking, Grief is a Thing With Feathers (fiction), You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me — strong recommends just maybe not all at once) because, well, I’m not entirely sure.  Because it makes me feel less alone.  Because sometimes when your feelings are put into words by someone else it helps.  Because sometimes you just want to cry.  Because sometimes you want to know how someone else made it to the other side.  Because sometimes I need to remind myself (because I can be a HUGE jerk) that I’m not the first person who was ever sad, that I’m not the only person who has lost their mother or parent or loved one in a way that didn’t feel fair.  A Grief Observed doesn’t always strike home for me, although obviously he was writing about his wife, which is quite different.  I think he was spot on about life in other places though:

One never meets just Cancer, or War, or Unhappiness (or Happiness). One only meets each hour or moment that comes.  All manner of ups and downs. Many bad spots in our best times, many good ones in our worst. One never gets the total impact of what we call ‘the thing itself.’ But we call it wrongly.  The thing itself is simply all these  ups and downs; the rest is a name or an idea.

I also very much like, and was somewhat surprised by, how Lewis shuts down platitudes about death and questions his beliefs, because I find that like him, death forces you to very seriously consider what may or may not be — as he says you have no trouble believing in the strength of rope when you’re tying it around a box, but it’s another matter when that rope is going to hold you over a precipice:

The vast majority of people I meet, say at work, would certainly think she is not [anything.] Though naturally the wouldn’t press the point on me. Not just now anyway.  What do I really think? I have always been able to pray for the other dead, and I still do, with some confidence.  But when I try to pray for H., I halt.  Bewilderment and amazement come over me.  I have a ghastly sense of unreality, or speaking into a vacuum about a nonentity.

Unless of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions ‘on the further shore,’ pictured in entirely earthly terms.  But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs.  There’s not a word of it in the Bible.  And it rings false.  We know it couldn’t be like that.  Reality never repeats.

I do envy Lewis in some ways his unwavering faith in God, for although he questions where his beloved is and what her life and death meant, he never considers a world without a God.  Whereas I am regularly kept awake thinking about the void, and trying to figure out how we all go along every day not looking into the precipice, not realizing what a slender rope holds us and everyone we love from leaving this existence and then what?

Currently reading: Still Hamilton…., also It Devours, the second Nightvale novel.

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