Death and texting.

The incessant march of time, days stretch into night and then begin again. What does it mean, the dark and the light, sleeping and waking. Lately, I have not wanted to get out of bed. My nights are full of dreams. Because there are so many of them, it feels like this is where I live. My days are filled with hours of silence, I often just sit in my living room and admire the plants on the patio.

It’s true that no one ever thinks they are going to get old. Even when a person is old, they will often deny it. Death is never part of a person’s story. We don’t think about what will happen at the end because we refuse to acknowledge there will be an end. More and more, I have been trying to integrate death into my story but find great resistance. When I mention death to anyone I know, they tell me I am not going to die anytime soon, that I am still young. It’s a taboo subject.

A few months ago I was taking care of someone’s sick cat when it started dying. Because I had never seen anything die, I panicked and tried to get help for her. Even though I knew she was not going to get better, I did not want her to die in front of me.

I was not able to watch my own cat die. I left him with a vet who gave him an injection. On the drive home, I screamed and howled in the car. I felt guilty even though there was nothing I could do. If there was an acceptance of death as being part of someone’s story, of it being an integral part of every living being’s life, this guilt would not exist.

A few years ago I watched a documentary in which an old man living in a nursing home was interviewed. When asked if he liked living in the nursing home he said no. When this question was followed up with, “Where would you like to be,” he said, “In the graveyard.”

I suddenly remembered this interview because of the news reports lately about the increase in American suicides, especially among women. While more men commit suicide, the rate at which it happens is going up faster among women.

For me, at 63, the world I live in has changed so much I don’t recognize it. Lately, I have stopped texting and am trying to cut back on emails because I’m tired of electronic communication. Whenever someone tries to have a conversation with me through texting, I refuse. I did text regularly for awhile, and at first it was kind of fun, but after a few years I found that people I knew  wanted to use it for everything. One woman used texting to talk about her various illnesses and even asked me to pray for her in a text. When I told her I didn’t want to receive texts from her anymore, she completely cut me off.

While I know texting is part of my culture, and that even more elaborate electronic communication will come in the future, I don’t like it or want it. It is not part of my story. I value privacy and don’t want to live in a world where privacy no longer exists.

When I say to people, “Let’s just take a walk through the woods and talk,” they text me to say they’re busy. So, I take these walks alone. I try to absorb as much solitude as I can because solitude is the most potent elixir, the most effective antidote, against banality and despair. It is the gift I can give myself.

During a recent conversation with someone about the formidable emotional challenges my 83-year-old mother is facing, she said, “Oh, she’s just lonely.” This is often the way older people are dismissed and disrespected. No matter how many people a person may be surrounded by, or even loved by, old age is an alone time and death is a solitary experience. But who besides the old themselves can ever know this?

In a recent interview at 92, Gloria Vanderbilt said there was something in her that was like a diamond, it could not be shattered, cracked or broken. This inner diamond was what got her through all the challenging times. I don’t know at what age she realized this, but it is increasingly clear that this diamond is what I am trying to find in myself.

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11 thoughts on “Death and texting.

  1. I was just thinking of you today…though I don’t know you of course but I like knowing you are out there somewhere…and then here is another interesting post.

    I’ve been thinking some of the same thoughts too…about death and the impossibility of comprehending one’s own death…Jenni Diski the author who died yesterday wrote about her approaching death recently and trying to deal with it and Ive been reading some of it and I think it echoes some of the same thoughts …

    I communicate a lot electronically because I’ve bad hearing but it’s no substitute for real time conversation. The person who cut you off must be some kind of silly.

    And the loneliness in old age thing is interesting too….though for me I find it tiresome that my 80 year old mother who has her husband, brother, children, grandchildren, friends and faith bleats at me, a single middle aged person, about how lonely she is. I asked her recently how lonely my old age might be given that I have so much less in terms of connections and that has given her pause I think. The loneliness of old age must indeed be awful but for some like my mother I think it’s an indulgence and also it does not matter how many people are around (though company is important) if you’re not at home with yourself then there will never be a cure for it…and I think too that those individuals who have always been more singular have an advantage in that maybe we more prepared and more able to rely on ourselves hard as it sometimes (often times) is. At least I hope thats the case…

    Also the idea of the diamond core…I’ve always felt I’ve had that, that I’ve hit rock bottom so many times but at centre there is a hard bright shiny that makes me get back up again…it’s the first time I’ve seen someone else describe it like that. It doesn’t make it easier but I’m quite sure you have it….thanks for another interesting post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I once quoted Jenni Diski in a post. Her essays on dying resonated with me. We came of age during the late 1960’s, so she felt like a soul sister. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, I sometimes think of you as well and am glad you are out there somewhere.

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  2. I wish I felt like I had a diamond inside like that, but I don’t.
    It’s weird how we can’t imagine ourselves dying. I think about it a lot. What’s worse though is knowing I’ll probably have to see siblings and friends die first. That crushes me. I’d rather go first I think- it’s so painful.
    Dogs and cats and parents, you have to expect that. With me I had a cat who died unexpectedly, a pretty young cat, and I cried more than I cried for my dad. Another cat and dog were old and that seemed ok.
    I live in constant fear of someone in my life dying unexpectedly.
    Maybe I got off on a tangent there.
    I think most people think about these things but it’s just hard to talk about.

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    1. I too live in constant fear of someone I love or my pets dying. Starting in 2013 there have been many losses. An aunt, uncle, brother in law, two of my dogs had to be put down due to cancer, my father , whom we found lying in his driveway beside his work truck and passed three days later and the latest my 18 year old cousin had a seizure in the night and passed. I got very sick during all this and I developed fibromyalgia and had to go see a psychiatrist. I still find myself bracing for the next death that may come. This is no way to live

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  3. Very good post. What I’ve noticed is that the modern cultural attitude to aging, propagated and nourished by the media, is negative. What we say holds no gravitas and the way we look is everything to seek cosmetic surgery for. How do we feel? Lonely would be one of the words that fit along with isolated, rejected, ostracised and similar. The old adages – birds of a feather, flock together; strength in unity and similar would help us to weather this ‘new world’. Difficult for introverts but not impossible. Text crazy people could feel free to exist in their phones.

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  4. It’s funny because I have been getting unwanted texts from a guy this week and I just realized that the only way to shut them off is to no longer respond to them…

    I believe the diamond of which Gloria Vanderbilt speaks, is brought with one from girlhood. I think too many women surrender their diamond to the socially conditioned expectations they spend most of their younger lives striving to fulfill (be pretty! be popular! attract a good man! have perfect children! or just any children! have a career! do it all! never die!)
    I am perhaps lucky, because my parents were pretty indifferent to me doing or achieving anything. They loved me (in their way) but working class parents have enough trouble motivating themselves to achieve, much less expecting their sons to, much less expecting their daughters to. I fell through all the cracks. I grew up escaping a lot of these socially conditioned expectations, and I feel like I still have my diamond, though it is sometimes painful to carry…

    I recently left my longtime employer, where I had been unofficially shoehorned into various technical/maintenance positions, and now I find out that people I used to work with, are shocked/puzzled that I would take my buyout money and go back to being a secretary in a “boring” and less sexy environment with reduced salary… it’s like they expected me to try to become a bigtime career woman… but in my new job it is pleasant, I have a firm and explainable role, and I chat with the janitor when things are quiet, the windows open here and there is a breeze… a good place to plan my descent into irrelevance and actually getting old… You are right, everyone dreads this subject and nobody plans for what is euphemistically called “retirement” (when it is actually “dying”)…

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  5. If I could, I would take a walk in the woods with you, Rachel. We could talk about death, and many other things……….
    I am very grateful you are “out there somewhere” – and that you write here.
    Thank you.

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  6. Oh, that’s so funny. I was going to write “I would walk in the forest with you, and we needn’t even talk (necessarily)”. And then I scroll down to see that Heidi posted something similar. 🙂

    More, like Heidi, I’m so grateful you’re out there (here) and sharing these thoughts. I feel less alone to read what you share.

    Like

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