Anakana Schofield – Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

Paternal honesty

On the morning of July 2, Gregory asked his son to kill him. The asking was not a fully conscious request for practical steps – he suggested getting a stick and hitting him over the head with it, as if by brutal overstatement to achieve the opposite of euphemism – but it was a demanding paternal honesty.

(From Six Days of Dying. Mary Catherine Bateson. essay describing Gregory Bateson’s death) read entire essay here

“…like many men , he (Freud) had great trouble yielding. He could submit neither to the world nor to other men. ”

(Ernest Becker “The Denial of Death”  (1973 The Free Press)

Note Tony Judt’s comments in this radio interview on “something after” his death in relation to those who knew him, family, close friends etc. Last week I talked to a recent widower and had a saddening conversation in which he could only talk of the finality, that he could no longer talk or touch or listen to his wife and I was reminded yet again we have no place to put death, to put grief and perhaps thinking and discussing this something after (the idea that someone continues to live on through our memory of them) could be a start.

NPR interview here.

Was just reading this excerpt of Paul Quarrington’s (RIP) memoir in today’s Globe. Read these few lines and they seem to articulate “a something” is the only way I can put it. A something that often stops me in my tracks or mid thought and puts me into a similar described state of panic.

I tried to be stoic, saying as how I had led a good life, and had lovely friends and loved ones. But then the sight of a very pretty girl reduced me to convulsive sobs. “I’m going to miss this so much,” I managed to get out, although my throat was so knotted with remorse that speech seemed hardly possible.

At last week’s memorial for Anna, for every extraordinary story and anecdote and remembrance shared, I would slump in between recalling that the life so vividly depicted in striking images on the wall and rousing words spoken on a humble community hall stage, that the very life I was learning so much about, had been irretrievably snuffed out. It made the whole thing all the more vicious. And another story or person would stand and my sense of the woman would be enriched further and it became more and more difficult. Yet I was glad to be there, despite the broader struggle it provoked. I also had some distance to take note of this in this situation whereas in other situations I haven’t had that.

I just watched a brief video segment of an interview with a poet, Leslie, 66, who died today. Her face was so extraordinarily beautiful, eyes so vivid and she spoke about losing her breath in Nepal. The above struck me. How can all this, all of this person, now be gone, a once and for all gone? And it can, of course it can and yet how to confront that. The only reassuring thing is that when it happens to an individual they do not “know” it once it is over. But perhaps it is in life leading up to that point we individually confront it. Or not.

The language we use around death does not suffice. We have so much language and yet we use such a select and repetitious series of words to express when someone dies.