Life & death are more than just bookends.


I can’t live my life as a servant to death.

My mother just called to say that Blondie (my sister) had phoned her in the middle of the night. Something has happened to my father and he is in hospital. My mom thinks it may be another heart attack, and it certainly involved a new stent.  She said he is in a stable condition. Blondie tried to text me, but for whatever reason I never receive her plain old text messages.

My mom said that Blondie said, ‘Did Existere call him on his birthday? Did she do something for his birthday? Won’t she feel terrible if he dies and she didn’t do anything?’


If he dies, when he dies, there is no doubt I will be supremely fucked up – for a lot of reasons. That being said, I don’t want to live my life pandering to someone who hurts me again and again, intentionally or not, just to lessen my own suffering when he dies. Life is too short, death will happen anyway.

Do I sound callous? I don’t mean to be.

But my life has always been about death. One of my first memories is my grandmother telling me that if I cried at her funeral, she would sit up in her coffin and punch me. She said this in a kind way, a loving way – trying to say that once someone is dead, that’s it. They are dead. She spent my whole childhood preparing me for her death. Sorting her jewelry,  telling me which pieces of furniture were destined to come my way.

I lived in terror of her dying. I spent my whole childhood with a constant prayer in my mind. ‘Please, God, let grandma and grandma and mom and dad and me and Blondie live to be well over 100.’ I would have this playing in my mind over and over and over. Every time I saw my grandmother I tried to get her signature. I would take along my journal everywhere I went, and was constantly tracing around everyone’s hands because it might be the last time.

Even now I am plagued by death worries. What if TMD dies? What would life be like? How could I ever survive if something happened to Snort and Coconut? Am I really going to die – but I haven’t chucked it all away and gone to live on a tropical island with my family yet!

My mother didn’t come to visit me when I moved to this country for years because my grandfather was very sick. She was afraid he would die when she was here. As it was, he did get even sicker just after she booked a ticket. But she came anyway, crying and upset most of the trip, and my grandfather lived for years after that trip.

I live in fear of death, and I am consciously trying to stop that. Despite my grandmother’s constant litanies of death and preparing me for it, when she died my world collapsed. I sank into a depression and just stopped going into work. I didn’t move off the couch once in about six weeks.

And here it is, 4.5 years later. My heart is still beating, I still miss my grandmother, I do not regret my life or hers.

But my father? This sounds cold, hateful even, but I am not willing to take the risk he may live years and years and years, and I will have to play nice and pretend my own feelings do not matter, just ‘in case.’

I wish him health, I wish him happiness. I just don’t want to be there at the moment.

That’s all.


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12 Responses to “Life & death are more than just bookends.”

  1. Mammapie Says:

    Ooooooh. Really really good post. I’ll say more later as someone else.

  2. mamasmedication Says:

    i hear ya
    i live in too much fear of death
    now that i have the kids
    but my mom
    well – i don’t want to be cold
    i would really miss my kids

  3. Anna Says:

    I’m so with you on this. I had to take a similar decision about my mum (stepmum, but since I was a baby, so mum to me), who had the power to crush me and used it. She died a month ago yesterday and it is hard to get a handle on, but I remain pleased that I put my own needs first, if only in the last couple of years. No regrets. I too feel I have the angel of death peering over my shoulder, but fuck it. Offer of granny-for-a-day still open. All the best x

  4. PottyMouthMommy Says:

    I could have written this… my father has been “dying” for almost half my life. I’ve been hearing how sick he is, and how frail and he could go at any minute- shouldn’t I make more effort to be in his life blah blah blah blah- I OWE him that much.

    I find it hilarious that I owe him sooooo much and am expected to put up with abuse and crap from him- yet, there’s no expectation on HIM to be a decent father and grandfather. For some reason, it’s MY fault that he’s a dickhead…. strange how that works!

  5. Kate Murphy Says:

    I know what you mean, this is a great post, very honest and candid and I admire your honesty. Xxx

  6. Della Says:

    posts like this remind me how lucky i am that both my parents are in excellent health and have loved me to the best of their (considerable) ability. my husband’s mom has mental issues, his dad is a complete self-centered jerkwad with good intentions and an inability to ever consider someone else before himself.

    it’s hard for me to remember that hubs actually grew up with these people as his PARENTS. i’m surprised that he is as well adjusted as he is, given the circumstances.

    i’m sorry your dad is one of those kind of people i can’t imagine having as a parent, who hurts you. *hug* i wish there’s a way everyone could have my experience.


  7. Katie B. Says:

    Great post!

    I grew up with an *awareness* of death – my dad’s dad died when I was little and my mom’s dad was very frail – but we were mainly focused on life. I’m grateful for this. When my grandmothers died I was sad about my mom’s mom (NOT my abusive dad’s mom)… but I’m not haunted. I’m sorry that you are. 😦

    My dad’s health is beginning to fail too, but I’m so not traveling down on his account until it’s time for his funeral. I’ll be sad when he dies, but not devastated. I’m too happy to be free of his abuse.

  8. Skeet Says:

    I think your decision is a brave one and one that puts you and your own family first. I also think it makes you sound strong. What you have been through is horrible but you still have strength to make such difficult decisions to protect yourself, TMD, Snort and Coconut.

    It also shows that you are indeed living for now and for your children’s future instead of the past.

    None of this can be easy but you are a strong woman.

  9. Myg Says:

    Well, that hit home.

  10. catsandcradles Says:


    I’m sorry you’re having to deal with all of this. It sucks.

    I think the “how would you feel if so-and-so died before the next time to talked with them?” is not, in itself, a terrible question. It’s why I try to end conversations with people I love with “I love you”, even if I’m currently pissed off at them. (The two states are not mutually exclusive, after all.) That being said, it doesn’t mean you should do yourself harm (or allow someone else to harm you) for the sake of this mythical resolution. If the answer to “how would you feel…?” is “I would be upset, but feel like I made the best decisions I could for myself and my family”, then that is a *completely* valid response.

    For whatever that’s worth.

    I, too, struggle with the fear of death. Before I was even willing to consider having children I had to reconcile myself to the fact that there is absolutely no guarantee that they will outlive me. In the end, though, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. I think there’s nothing for it but to take joy in you life, and in the lives of those you love.

    And now I think I need to go send a postcard to my senile grandmother, who may or may not still remember who I am. Still, mail is always nice, right?

  11. Christine LaRocque Says:

    I’m not going to snafu your comments by getting in to my very own similar experience. It has to with my birth mother’s family, and a lifetime of hurt and ignorance and the death of my grandfather. Suffice it to say, that I know just how you feel when you speak of your father. I recognize it completely. I lost my mother at a very young age (I was only 4) and so I’m familiar with death in a very real, life changing forever kind of way. One could say death has defined my life. I don’t like that, I’m trying to change it. What you say here makes so much sense. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Tatiana Says:

    I have never had to experience death close up. I know it’s coming eventually, but I’m so scared of facing it. I’m sure it’ll sound fucked up to say, but I think you’re lucky to understand it the way you do.

    If someone called me and said that my father was in the hospital, I don’t know what I’d do. I personally don’t want anything to do with him at this point in my life, but he is a man whose (new?) family loves him, he is a man who fathers my two half-siblings, and I don’t want them to know the pain of losing a parent that they love.

    All you can do is be true to yourself. I wouldn’t play nice “just in case” either.

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