Monday, August 07, 2006

broken, part two

somebody's at the door--
and it's not the pizza guy.

this post is somewhat connected to last week's post about broken writers.
when i was about nine my grandmother and i took a vacation together. on that vacation, she died. i think that marked the beginning of my obsession with death. I now had a loved one in that other place, and that place became a curiosity for me. suddenly i felt a strange sense of comfort when it came to all things dead. cemeteries, the smell of a funeral home. (is that embalming fluid?????) over the years i moved past that, but the books i read tended to be dark.

flash forward: my husband died of cancer ten years ago. After a couple of surgeries he was told the cancer had returned and he had at the VERY most two weeks to live. so we went home and waited. just basically sat and waited. every day was goodbye. every day was the last day. every day was the preparation for death. this went on for five freakin' months. it truly was the blackest of black comedies. i was alone with him in the middle of the night when he took his final breath. i think the whole experience brought back a bit of the old death obsession. It has certainly surfaced in my writing.

as writers we take major events in our lives, traumatic or otherwise, and turn and twist them and look at them from all different angles.

my question is: if you are drawn to the macabre, if you are drawn to cemeteries, if you write about death and murder, do you think a past death event plays a part in your curiosity and need to further explore? (I'm not talking about mystery here. I think different though processes are at work when it comes to a mystery that follows a set of clues until the case in solved.)

I'm curious to know if most people who write about death have been through a fairly significant death event. Of course death touches all of us, so I don't know.... Maybe my obsession has always been there, Maybe none of this had anything to do with it.

here's an interesting aside: i knew a high school girl whose father was killed in a plane crash. a few months later she started hanging around funeral homes and a couple of years later she married a mortician.

oh, and if you'd like to reply, but feel uncomfortable posting under your name please feel free to post anonymously.


Stephen Blackmoore said...

I think the primary reason I'm so fascinated with death is that it's one of those things that, no matter how much I experience, I'm never going to truly understand. I can't even be sure that when I finally kick, I'm going to have a moment of perfect clarity on the subject.

No matter what happens, or how much of it you experience, there's always going to be a certain amount of mystery to it. There are so many open questions that I can't help but find it endlessly fascinating. I have the same thing with women and religions, which probably says more about me than I'm entirely comfortable with. ;-)

I've had some experiences that I think have influenced my fascination with death, but I don't think any of them have defined my interest. They might have focused my curiosity a little more, but that's about all.

I have problems with that funeral home smell. Every time I've smelled it it reminds me of a particular perfume and vice versa. I find I have a pretty strong reaction to it. It's made for some awkward situations.

angie said...

Sheesh! Nice to see you sticking to the light & fluffy side of things. I've never been present at a death, but I've had 2 experiences that were defining moments for me.

The first was at the viewing of a family friend. This woman had been like a grandmother to me - all of my relatives lived in the midwest, but I grew up in the south. I was about ten and it was my first funeral/viewing. I completely lost it. I kept thinking how wrong it was that all these people were hovering around talking about stupid shit when this plastic thing that only vaguely looked like my friend was sitting in the room. And then my mom decided it was time for me to go up and "view" the body. Uh-uh, no way, fuck that, I was outa there. That wasn't my friend in that box. My friend was dead and going up there was just...sick.

The other experience hit me hard in a different way. Four months after starting my first behavioral health job working strictly with children, I went on vacation. When I got back, I was told that one of my clients, a young teenage girl had commited suicide. I was the last person from our organization who had talked with her. All of the guilt and grief aside, I was flipped out that she shot herself with a gun that the family kept under the toaster cozy in the kitchen. Did I mention that I did in-home work and had been in that trailer several times without knowing a fucking gun was there? And that it is illegal in our state for firearms to be present in a home where a mentally ill person lives? So yeah, that experience in particular has influenced my writing and my world-view. Not to mention the nightmares.

Anne McAllister said...

Well, of course you know I'm such a Pollyanna that I don't do the macabre and death in quite the same way as you! Probably I don't do the macabre at all. But I love cemeteries because I feel connected to the people whose remains are there. I see names on tombstones and I want to know the people they were. Even there I'm rarely thinking about their deaths or what state they're in now, but what they were like in life.

I'm not sure where we come from on those issues. Is it experience or predisposition? I don't know. I had the average sort of experience of kids and death growing up -- which was that old people tended to die, not kids or people "before their time" in my own life. Then I grew up and got married and had a kid and then had another kid -- and that one was born too early and died at birth. Today he would have lived because medical science can do more now. My twin grandsons, born in much the same circumstances, two years ago, survived. I'm grateful for that. Exploring death in books isn't something I really relish doing. I've done it as a byproduct in a couple of the relationship books I've written. But obviously there death isn't the focus. I don't want to make it the focus either because I'd wallow in it and it wouldn't be healthy for me. Everyone handles those things in their own way, I think. It's what makes life -- and reading -- interesting.

Bill Cameron said...

I am going to ruminate on this. Big question. Big, interesting question. I know the answer for myself, but I want to think about how I explain it. One of those things that I understand, but have never exactly articulated.

Word Verification is the Icelandic King: elvyk

anne frasier said...

"I think the primary reason I'm so fascinated with death is that it's one of those things that, no matter how much I experience, I'm never going to truly understand."

stephen, i think that's probably at the heart of it. and these events sharpen the focus.

any idea what that perfume is called? something with the word cloying in it perhaps? i always thought tabu has kind of a heavy, funeral home odor to it.

angie: they don't call me anne of a thousand chuckles fer nuthin'!.

i've heard of children being subjected to viewings and even being forced to kiss the dead body. i can't imagine experiencing such a thing at that age. i can't imagine putting a kid through that, but we were pretty much a closed casket bunch. . and i can definitely see how your later experience could influence your writing.

anne frasier said...

anne -- yes, i think like you i'm extremely fascinated by cemeteries simply for the genealogical and historical aspect. and the tranquil beauty.

and we can't all be morose and dark. that would be boring!

bill -- i'll be here. ;)

another thing i didn't mention is that i think just getting older brings some of this about, because we're much more aware of our own ticking clocks.

Michele said...

I've never had anyone really close to me die until very recently. But as a kid I remember dreaming A LOT about being buried alive. Sometimes in the ground with dirt over me, other times in a coffin. Used to wake me up gasping for air. That dream stayed with me a long time, until in my teen years, and I was scouring the libraries for all things macabre, I happened on a reference to the Victorians burying their dead with little strings that run from the coffin up to the surface where a bell would ring if the dead person (who was really Alive!) sounded it. They also put pipes down to the coffin so the dead person (who was really Alive!) could shout out for help. I wondered if anyone would ever hear those shouts in time for it to matter. :-) Anyway, for some reason, after reading about that, I didn't worry so much about being buried alive. Haven't dreamed about it since. (Though I have decided it's cremation all the way for me. Because I don't want to be really Alive!) But I did develop a fascination for vampires because of it. Hmm...
I'm not much for graveyards, but I do appreciate a gorgeous tombstone.


Sandra Ruttan said...

I'm glad you didn't post this this morning, because I was certainly fantasizing about death then...

Quite seriously, I think death has been significant. My mother miscarried when I was young, and then she 'went away' for some time. I can remember things about that time, walking out of my bedroom to talk to Trudy, who looked after us, coloring. I certainly knew something was wrong.

The closest thing I had to grandparents, really, were my Uncle Ab and Aunt Elma, who lived in town. Uncle Ab died when I was quite young. My sister and I had sleepovers there sometimes. These were actually my great uncle and great aunt, and I remember Elma saying Ab just sat down in the kitchen one morning, said "I'm going" and died.

I had another great aunt and uncle, Uncle Carl and Aunt Elma (yeah, two aunt Elma's - one a born Ruttan, one who married a Ruttan) who also lived in our town and we spent a fair bit of time around them as kids as well. Uncle Carl engraved a silver brooch and bracelet for me as a child, which I still have. He got cancer. My parents used to say he was smoking himself to death, so my sister and I stole his cigarettes so he wouldn't die. Of course, we got in trouble, and we all watched him wither away from a tall, strong man to a shell of a person. It was disturbing for a young kid.

Both my mother and my uncle were hospitalized for suicide attempts throughout my childhood. I think, for me, I tried to avoid it. But I had my own near-death experience at the age of 10, so while I've never really thought about it in this context before, I suppose death was an integral part of my childhood, in a way I didn't realize before.

Kel said...

I write about death and murder, but more about the violence of it and the pain. I've witnessed a lot of violence and have felt dark emotional pain. It's stuff that never leaves you.

I come from a big family and there's been so many deaths. During a 3 year span, there was a family death each year. Another funeral, another body to look at. The people who mourned. It was very tough not to be able to see my dad one last time after he died. So I have this fascination with ghosts and the afterlife. Even before that, though. It just grew stronger after his death.

I know I've said it before, but I'm truly sorry about your husband.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for what you went through Anne, and I'm sorry for your husband, even if the whole experience is now an important part of your writing fuel.

Since I'm one of the more outwardly cemetery-oriented folks who visit your blog, I suppose I really have to come up with a good explanation for my fascination. That's going to be hard, though, because the feelings I have about it are like smoke--it's all around me but I just can't seem to grab it.

I will say this. My fascination unequivocally has nothing to do with a close death. Although I have had non-immediate family members die, I really don't associate any of my fascination with those events.

Here is what I do think it comes from. I've always felt a strange connection to an earlier time (Victorian or turn of the 20th century). No, I don't believe in past lives or anything, it's just a quirk of my personality. I think I'm fascinated with cemeteries and remembering those who are long gone, because I feel a sense of peace around them. Like I'm closer to something more natural and pure.

Weird, I know.

(Powerful post, Anne. Wow.)

anne frasier said...

michele, wow, that would have been a helluva recurring nightmare for a kid to deal with!!

i've read about the bells and pipes. haha! i never thought about the problem of nobody being around to hear it. although cemeteries were also used as parks where families went for picnics, so maybe more people would have been around back then.

i think there was some recent talk about a cell phone company trying to come up with a phone that would get a good signal from a coffin. but if a person is embalmed, i'm pretty sure he's finally really, really dead. yeah, cremation here too. :D

nice to see you over here :)

Andrew said...

Some of my writer friends pump out some fairly macabre material. In their cases they seem to regard this as a vehicle for putting a thrill in the reading experience. After all, death is kind of the ultimate mysterious adventure, the one nobody has ever been able to tell about ... except in works of fiction. I think that makes it an irresistable draw for some writers. But who knows? Maybe my friends just like playing with sharp pointy objects. :o)

To Love, Honor and Dismay

anne frasier said...

sandra, that's a lot of heavy stuff for a kid to deal with. i would think it would have to have had some impact. i also think that kind of thing imprints deeper on kids of a certain age. and then the fact that you have personal gifts he made -- i find that fascinating too. a solid link to the past and his hands. oops. here i go again.!

kelly, i know you miss your dad. :(
violence is hard for me to get right because it never makes any sense. i think we are often trying to make sense of things that make no sense. that's an incomplete thought, i know! :D

anne frasier said...

jason, don't feel sorry for me! i really look at this in a very analytical way. i'm a curious person.

I have wondered about your cemetery fascination, and i'm REALLY surprised it doesn't have darker roots. that's good!!

your blog definitely conveys that sense of peace you yourself must feel in cemeteries. and of course you know i love your blog.

anne frasier said...

andrew, are you saying that some writers just want to scare the crap out of people???? the nerve! ;) hehe. i have to admit i think I might fall into that category. i like to scare people because i know that kind of scare can be a fun thrill ride. but then there's that pointy thing too....

thanks for stopping!

Jeff said...

During my career in health care I have witnessed the process of dying and death many times and I am still fascinated by it.
I can see how watching two people close to you die would impact your life and your writing.
I was about three when my sister died. She was only 6 months old. It was an odd age to be introduced to the finality of death. Each year we made a special trip to the cemetery to place an Easter lilly on her grave. I'm sure in some ways that accounts for my interest in death and cemeteries.

anne frasier said...

jeff, i can definitely see how that could leave quite an imprint on a child that age.

Jaye Wells said...

I took the other route. After the forced kissing of great-grandparents post-mortem and losing a very close family member violenty in my teens, I tend to avoid death in my books. Instead, I use humor like a shield. Hell, I write comedies about immortal vamps.

Although, now that I think about it, most of my shorter pieces tend to be angrier and involve dark subjects. Perhaps I'm tapping into something there.

Jude said...

Ther's been quite a bit of death in my family but my first novel was so light it was silly. My teen novel is dark and features some death- connected perhaps- not sure.

I'm much more aware of how it feels to lose someone and there's no doubt this comes through when I write about death. There's no way that it couldn't and I'm sure it's the same for you. It must have been hard at the time for you and sometimes now I'm sure it still is.

My mum died of cancer six years ago- at home with us and there are other family members who have since or before died but she was the closest to me and her loss definitely affected me and my view of life and the world, but I wouldn't say I'm fascinated by death. I just accept that it happens to us all and we really have no control over when.

stay_c said...

I've had someone close to me die every few years, since I was 8 and my father was killed in a car accident.

I'm not obsessed about death. I've developed coping methods so that I don't have to deal with what really happened. I'm great at denial and justification.

But everytime my life falls apart, or feels like it will, I start to clean and organize. My husband came home from work a couple of days ago to a very organized fridge, a mowed lawn, and clean living room. He didn't say anything about it, except to give me a hug.

He knows what's causing it, but neither of us can "fix" it.

Kel said...

Thought you'd might be interested in this article. Trippy.

anne frasier said...

jaye: i think a lot of people go the other way. i suppose it's predisposition, and i don't think one way is healthier or unhealthier than the other. and i tend to over-analyze even the most mudane events, so the death issue is just one of thousand. hehe. interesting that your short stories are darker.

jude: thanks for sharing some of your history. it sounds like you've been able to separate your life from your writing, yet borrow from your experiences when you need them. that seems very healthy!

stay-c: aww, hugs. i know someone who bakes. frantically. mixing bowls everywhere. big wooded spoon that she uses to stir like crazy. she even holds the spoon in a fist. but while that's going on, she'll be talking very calmly about whatever. gotta bake cookies. gotta bake cookies.

you must feel the need to organize and control your immediate environment, which i would also thinks is a healthy way to deal with something.

anne frasier said...

kelly, body worlds is here in St. Paul right now until sept! i can't believe i haven't been yet. soon as i get this draft done!
but i had no idea where and how these bodies were preserved. the article is fascinating. thanks so much for posting it.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Anne, I don't know the perfume, but yeah, Tabu always reminded me of it. Turns my stomach whenever I smell it.

I don't know what they're actually using, but it might be one of these.

anne frasier said...

stephen, that's so wrong! :D

embalming is just the weirdest damn thing...

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Bill Cameron said...

It seems to me that the underlying theme in a lot of these comments is the desire for control. But how do we control the uncontrollable?

I've been present at the violent deaths of four people in two separate incidents, and in both cases it's only through dumb luck that I survived myself. The first happened at my high school. Ninth grade. Between classes I stopped to take a pee in the same bathroom where another a guy decided to resolve a drug dispute with a shotgun. Two students and a teacher were killed. One more urinal to my right and I might have been one of them. The second happened when I was in basic training. At the firing range one day a trainee from another platoon apparently decided he'd had enough and tried to shoot his drill sergeant. My platoon just marching past on our way to our own assigned range, nothing to do with the situation. The dumbass missed his target, of course. Hit a friend of mine instead, two places ahead of me in formation.

Makes an impression on a fellow, I can tell you. Both events have definitely influenced the way I think and write about violence, and to a degree, about death. In my college writing classes, I produced a vast quantity of words so blood-drenched I had people ask me in workshops what the fuck was wrong with me.

Now, I don't share those incidents for the "oh my god" factor. Both scared the hell out of me, sure. Both affected my sleep, or maybe the way I entered public restrooms. And for a long time, when I wrote about violence, I thought what I was doing was processing my feelings about those events through my writing. I thought I was grappling with death. And I think I believed I would somehow find a way to vanquish death. But in many ways, despite their impact on the way I wrote about violence, they never overwhelmed me. It was almost as if they weren't even real. When I would try to ponder them, they felt like dreams. Or stories told by someone else about a stranger.

I mean, how absurd. How ridiculous. Taking a pee, boom, surrounded by dead bodies. Who the hell does that even happen to?

When I was thirteen, my grandmother died. She'd been sick a long time, and it wasn't really a surprise to anyone. In some ways, given the nature of her illnesses, cancer, painful arthritis, you might say her death was a relief -- for her, if no one else. It was my first direct experience of death, and I didn't know what to do with it. So I did the one thing I thought I was supposed to do. I got tough. I was stoic. I stood around, somber and quiet, while my mother weeped and . I went to the viewing and looked at the strange, empty thing in the casket. I listened to the chatter of the friends and relatives, and it sounded so strange to me. And I remember thinking that I wanted to go ask my grandmother what she thought about it. All this fuss and bother about her. Of course I couldn't. She'd been taken away and she wasn't coming. That's when the loss broke through my stoicism and I was finally able to cry. But I was still a tough kid, and if I was gonna cry, it was nobody else’s business.

Later, my mother threw my stoicism back at me. “You didn’t even cry when your grandmother died!” (J’accuse!) And all I could think was what the fuck did she know about it? But that’s when I came to understand death is a thing owned by the living more than an event that happened to the dead. It’s something fraught with expectation, drenched in ceremony, rife with uncertainty. We each have a piece of it when someone dies. Sometimes it’s a fragment -- a quick, visceral response to a story in the news. Sometimes it’s larger than our own lives.

Ultimately death is what’s left to the living when the dead have been taken away. It belongs to us. We grapple with it, try to control it, and yet it seems to slip away from us too often. It feels like emptiness because we focus on who is gone, but it’s really the thing that fills the empty space left by the people we’ve had taken from us.

For me, violence is about control, and death is about loss. The point where those two notions converge is what I often write about.

angie said...

Very well said, Bill. Thanks for sharing your thoughts & experiences. The one thing I've learned is that grief is about the living, not the dead. We grieve for what we've lost - even if the death involves a child, we grieve for our loss of innocence, of potential more than the loss of the child's life.

And I absolutely agree that violence is about (the illusion of) control. When violence, whether physical or emotional, results in death, it shatters that illusion of control. The choice is to either let go of that illusion a little bit, or work harder to find a mechanism that allows us to cope (baking, cleaning, whatever).

I think I'm less obsessed with death in terms of cemeteries and whether or not there is an afterlife (that's a whole other issue for me) than I am with the processes of violence and grieving. How do we humans cope and why do we cling to the notion that somehow death isn't fair? And why are we so sure that there is an answer to the awful why that haunts us? Sorry, just thinking here.

I need to spend some time in fluffy rainbow land now!

anne frasier said...


Bill, what a wonderful, amazing story. thank you so much. i hope you also put this on your blog and website so more people will see it.

"But that’s when I came to understand death is a thing owned by the living more than an event that happened to the dead. It’s something fraught with expectation, drenched in ceremony, rife with uncertainty. We each have a piece of it when someone dies. Sometimes it’s a fragment -- a quick, visceral response to a story in the news. Sometimes it’s larger than our own lives.

Ultimately death is what’s left to the living when the dead have been taken away. It belongs to us. We grapple with it, try to control it, and yet it seems to slip away from us too often. It feels like emptiness because we focus on who is gone, but it’s really the thing that fills the empty space left by the people we’ve had taken from us."


this is why i absolutely cannot wait until your book comes out.

anne frasier said...

angie, i love this: "How do we humans cope and why do we cling to the notion that somehow death isn't fair? And why are we so sure that there is an answer to the awful why that haunts us?'

very though-provoking

Anonymous said...

I saw Body Worlds in Philadelphia. My kids saw it twice. The second time my 4 year old served as a quasi tour guide for my mother-in-law. There is an amazing collection of blood-vessel-only mounts (they filled everything down to capillaries with latex, then dissolved the rest of the body away). You have to see it to believe it.

Jer said...

Wow. It's taking most of my lunch hour to get through these great responses.

I was with a few people as they died--one my mother, and another my paternal grandmother. And although both brought great sadness, they also were beautiful experiences. To know that the last words they heard were, "I love you," I hope that matters. I know it mattered to me.

My first really traumatic experience regarding death was the loss of my two year old sister. I was 14 and was her godmother--an important relationship in our family. The most traumatic thing was how I was told about it. A nun bolloxed it tremendously. In retrospect it's hilarious, her lack of skill.

As a disaster mental health worker I've dealt with death in other ways too. Telling people a loved one is dead, debriefing with individuals who've experienced a traumatic event, talking to survivors of a disaster...all these touch me deeply. I can keep a professional distance only to a point, then the empathy becomes a kinship of sorts. The shared humanity, the shared pain, blurs the lines between therapist and client. We all face the possibility of the randomness of violence and death.

Is part of our grief "thank god it's not me"? I'm confident it is.

Hey, this is pretty damn deep for a comedian. I'm surprised at myself.

Jer said...

Oh, there's more I want to say. Anne, you and Jeff know this, but others don't. Every New Year's Day my sibs and I go to the cemetary and have a beer with my parents. We drink, laugh, talk about them, and one brother pours a little beer on each grave. (Mom would call that a sad waste of good brew.) It's a day of celebrating their lives. And we always take a picture. Usually there are about 20 or more (out of the 46 of us). It's a happy memory.

Bill Cameron said...

jer, that's a wonderful way to spend New Year's Day!

Anonymous said...

I can keep a professional distance only to a point, then the empathy becomes a kinship of sorts. The shared humanity, the shared pain, blurs the lines between therapist and client. We all face the possibility of the randomness of violence and death.

Jer, that was beautifully put. Yes, I also empathize with all of these painful events.

Bill Cameron said...

I keep coming back to this thread. So much here, each time I read something new that's just amazing. Like dipping in a bucket over and over and each time finding a gold nugget.

Jer said...

Thanks, Bill. Dad died on New Year's Day 1986 (at age 60). My five brothers were playing games in the dining room and we think the last thing he heard was their laughter. So we celebrate by going to the cemetary and then playing games, eating, and drinking beer. It's something I look forward to much more than New Year's Eve. I stay home that night so I have energy for the next day. :)

Jer said...

Thanks, Jason. Empathy is a great gift we can give each other.

anne frasier said...

jason, i can't wait to see body worlds. hope i don't get dizzy. :D

jer, i completely get what you mean when you say sharing death -- as much as we can -- was/is a beautiful experience. i was going to mention that, and really couldn't describe it so i gave up! i keep thinking of words like peace and contentment, but i can't really put it all together. and i absolutely LOVE your new year's day cemetery celebration!! i hope you post photos again this next NYD.

bill, i'm truly humbled by what people are willing to share. and i know what you mean -- it's going to take me a while to absorb all of this. it's not something to be done in one of two sittings.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

First, Anne, I know it's been ten years, but a death in the family -- especially someone so close -- hurts us forever and I offer my sincere condolences for the loss of your husband. I'm floored.

A few years ago, my daughter lost someone very close to her to cancer, and we still get very emotional when we think about him.

As to your question -- I certainly write about death -- KISS HER GOODBYE is ALL about it, but I'm not sure what it is that compels me to write about it.

When I was about fifteen years old, my uncle died -- then was brought back to life a few minutes later by a stubborn doctor. But whenever he was asked about his time "away" he refused to talk about it. We all sensed that it was not necessarily a pleasant experience -- as others have claimed.

Because of this I became very interested in the near-death experience and did a bit of reading about it. This eventually turned into one of the themes in KISS HER GOODBYE, and the notion that the experience is not the same for everyone.

I wouldn't say I'm obsessed with death or anything -- but a) I do find it fascinating; and b) I have no real fear of it other than the initial pain involved and that instinctive need to survive.

I look at death as another leg of the adventure and, I suppose, this affects my writing.

I'm not religious at all, but I don't believe this life is the only one. There's something out there. Waiting for us. And I'll be excited and thrilled to explore the new territory, whatever it is.

anne frasier said...

rob, thanks for the kind words, and thanks so much for sharing your stories. i've heard of people who have been brought back to life and refused to talk about whatever terror they experienced. i think some doctors say the lack of oxygen brings about hallucinations that can seem real and horrifying, but others argue that theory. pretty fascinating, and another mystery to add to the already deeply mysterious.

emeraldcite said...

I'm sorry too. It's a sad story, but I can the influence over you work. ((hugs))

For me, I find cemeteries to be sad and quiet. You can sit a cemetery next to a highway and it still swallows the sound.

As for death, I write about it because I fear it. When I was a teenager, death was fascinating because it was an unknown, but it didn't affect me.

Now, though, I fear it because I know now how fragile we are, how short life is and that makes me a bit sad. I write about it to keep it at bay, to push it into the back of the closet, hide it under a few shoe boxes so I can forget about it.

Maybe if I can forget Death, he won't come for me...

anne frasier said...

awww, thanks, emeraldcite.

i really like this line:

"You can sit in a cemetery next to a highway and it still swallows the sound."

oh, that's so true. the air seems heavier, and sound doesn't carry as far. you could argue that there's nothing much to reflect the sound, but i don't know... there's definitely something different.

emeraldcite said...

there's not much there to reflect it, but there's not much there to absorb it either. Kinda spooky.

Maybe something is there to absorb it...

Daniel Hatadi said...

Great topic, Anne. Now ...


If I have any fascination with death, it's because of the taboo surrounding it.

When someone dies we are supposed to be extremely careful about everything we say, even if it happened on the other side of the globe and we have absolutely no connection with the events.

We're not supposed to talk about death, for fear that even the mention of it may bring some form of bad luck.

In some cultures, widows wear black for the rest of their lives and never remarry.

All of this gets the rebel in me fired up.

Death is part of life. It seems absolutely absurd to ignore it or brush the subject under the carpet.

I want to be able to joke about death. I want to imagine what life would be like if my loved ones die, or what life would be like for them if I die.

For that matter, since I will also die eventually (in a few hundred years, give or take), I believe I have the right to explore the subject in any way I see fit, so I can come to terms with death in my own way.

When I die, I don't want to take up land that could be used for something better. Compact me into a brick and use it as a foundation stone for a building. Don't dare cremate me and polute the atmosphere. Dispose of my body in an enviromentally friendly way, because I don't really care what happens to it. I'm no longer there.

When I die, I want people to dance to John Lee Hooker singing Boom, Boom, as loud as the sound system can go.

My death is mine, let me do it as I please.


Like Stephen, I probably have the same attitude to religion and women.

And that definitely makes for some awkward moments.

anne frasier said...

emeraldcite: "kinda spooky."
we like that! but you're right about nothing to absorb it either. pretty strange.

anne frasier said...

daniel, fantastic rant. :D

and you are absolutely right about the taboo surrounding it. i think that is changing to some extent. there was a weird period of time in the states when people seemed to embrace it. when all the post mortem photography was done (but maybe that was just an odd, regional backlash), then i wonder if it became unmentionable again along with the post WWII mentality and the pretention of a perfect life.

got a chuckle out of this:

" I will also die eventually (in a few hundred years, give or take)"

and i think you and stephen have some explainin' to do about religion and women.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Well, I can't speak for Daniel, but for me the point about religion, women and death that I made was that those are things that no matter how much I try, no matter how much I examine, or experience, I will never fully understand. And things I don't understand are endlessly fascinating to me. ;-)

Personally, I think they're all linked; sex, death, religion. On some primal level we're all trying to comprehend what it all means, and create some kind of connection with other people to stave off the loneliness. Whether we do it by looking for a one night stand, connecting with a god or a community or just sit in a graveyard and think about the immensity of all of the lives that came before us, they're all tied together in one writhing ball of messy human experience.

Ultimately, they're all about living.

anne frasier said...

okay, i just spotted this on the overheard in minneapolis blog, which is exactly what it sounds like. people send in things they've recently overheard ~~

Man leaving exhibit: This is making me hungry for chicken.

Body Worlds at the Science Museum
Overheard by Recently converted to vegetarianism.

anne frasier said...

stephen, that makes perfect sense.

"On some primal level we're all trying to comprehend what it all means, and create some kind of connection with other people to stave off the loneliness."

Sandra Ruttan said...

Wow, Daniel should have made a blog post out of that!

anne frasier said...

sandra, he did!

check out daniel's blog. :)

M. G. Tarquini said...


Your story is fascinating to me because repeat events like that would make me think that heaven was trying to tell me something.


Re: death. It can't be outrun. I think people are here for a reason and when they hit that goal, or miss it badly, that's it until the next go around. Of course, that's cold comfort when somebody I care about, or somebody who I think is just too young dies.

Wow. That looks horribly simplistic.

anne frasier said...

mindy, i think it is simplistic, but we want 2*2 to equal 10.

Daniel Hatadi said...

I suppose my comment on religion and women sounded a little flippant, so I do owe an explanation. It won't be as eloquent as Stephen's, though.

It all comes down to the rebel within me.

When religion tries to stifle basic parts of human nature, I want to rebel against it. Ultimately I don't have a very high opinion of most religions, which of course fascinates me and makes me want to know more.

The last few years have seen me exploring my own feelings a lot, especially with regards to atheism and Buddhism. I've found a strong connection with the more Zen side of Buddhism as a consequence, but I can't say that any part of me is very religious at all. Religions to me are just different systems for living.

Women are a slightly different matter, but again stem from the rebel within.

I've always found myself attracted to women that are aloof. I need to find out the mystery behind them, to crack that serious face with a smile. What is that tall, pale skinned woman with piercing blue eyes and long black hair (dyed, of course) thinking about? Probably something like "why is that guy staring at me?"

I can't help wanting to know.


anne frasier said...

daniel, i feel the same way about religion. at the same time i understand why people embrace it, and i sometimes wish i could believe because it seems comforting, but there's just no way.

and as far as women... you don't see that kind of female much anymore. i suppose girls gone wild kind of pushed her into the corner. :D i love to write females like that -- but i've never had an editor who cared for them. always thought that was strange that female editors tends to dislike those aloof, loners.

bekbek said...

When I read your blog entry, I was thinking, "I don't think about death at all." And then I read all these comments and each one got me thinking.

Of course, I don't write about death. I don't really think about death at all. It's a non-event, in a way. But horrific accidents? I'm all over that, for some reason.

I've never seen an accident or violent death up close. I've never seen anybody die. I did view a couple of seriously old people in their coffins when I was a kid. I try to imagine I was horrified, but I really hated churches and was already forced to be in a church, so I'm not sure the body impressed me. Lots of old people and old-people smells, in a church... I mean, the body in the coffin was the high point.

When I was a kid, we had a baby sparrow for a while. She grew up, flew off, and then hung around the neighborhood and had a regular lunch hour. I didn't see her die, because a teenager took her and stuffed her in an envelope and rode away.

Later, we had a kitten/cat for a year or so. One day, while I was sleeping, she got torn up by dogs. The rest of my family took her to the vet's, and the vet put her to sleep. I never got to say good bye and never saw her die.

As an adult, I attended my grandfather's dying, but not his death. I had many long moments when I thought I was hearing his last breath, but no. He died later, when we were somewhere else.

Sometimes I think that my terrible fear of horrific accidents, amputations, and anything at all harming my Luther... is related to the fact that I've never seen anything happen. I've never been there to witness it, and I feel divorced from the horror.

So yes. What Bill said is bang on: Violence is about control. And it's a little like the longer I live in this little bubble of mine, violence-less, the less control I have.

Scares me silly.

anne frasier said...

bek, i know what you're saying. i have a friend who has really never experienced anything bad in her life. she has a great husband, great kids, they have plenty of money and time to travel and enjoy things. she's commented on what a charmed life she leads, and how it scares her sometimes.

and would i want a life that's a straight line?