Home > Uncategorized > Some Words in the Madness

Some Words in the Madness

One of the hardest things I ever did was watch my mom die.

Now, almost eight years later, I can still recall everything in excruciating detail. It’s strange—the things your mind holds on to in the aftermath of trauma, heightened by hypervigilance and grief. Does pain sharpen memory recall? Sometimes, I suppose, but not always. But profound moments, good or bad, are often indelible. For me, my mother’s death was life-changing, as predictable and almost hollow that phrasing is.

Her death was not unexpected—she was terminal. It wasn’t an if it was a when—only the when was a perpetual question mark. Doctor after doctor, treatment after treatment, buying time one moment after another, bargaining with Death who hovered around the edges of everything for a little over two years.

But you adjust as best you can, sorting out a routine, digging a foundation for a new normal—however temporary it may be. You live with the reality that everything is going to come crashing down, but you can’t really brace for it or plan for it. You can’t mark a date on the calendar and prepare. There’s no way to fortify your heart to lose someone you love, even when you have warning that it will happen.

Lately, the whole world has felt like that, knowing that everything is about to split wide open, because it’s already happening. Maybe not to people you know—yet. Maybe not to people whose first names you know, but who you see at the coffeeshop, who drive the bus you normally take, who sort your mail. Or maybe it is already happening to someone you went to college with, grew up spending endless summers with, or know from work.

Whatever the case may be, there’s a whole world full of grief out there, for things that have already happened and for the things we know will happen. And it’s hard to grapple with that kind of worry, that overwhelming feeling of loss, that impossible minefield of what if and when. Grief is mean, even when you know it’s around the corner. But when you aren’t sure which direction it’s coming from? When it’s something, but it has no name yet? That can be utterly exhausting, heartbreaking, and at times overwhelming.

I have read countless stories of people who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. I’ve scrolled online trying to absorb it all, to maybe bear witness to lives cut short, because the people who are gone deserve that. They deserve to be known. Their families surely deserve more than having to wait by the phone for the call that will take them out at the knees, instead of holding the hand of their loved ones, instead of having the terrible privilege that I had: to watch my mother take her last breath.

And I’ll be honest: I don’t know what to do with all this. And maybe you don’t either. Because this is kind of uncharted, chaotic waters. This isn’t anything close to normal. It’s not a normal situation. It’s not a normal setting for grief, either. We are—everyone I know—doing our best to stay home, stay safe, flatten the curve. Even if it isn’t for your own sake, it’s for your elderly neighbor, your parent, your friend with a compromised immune system. Everyone person you love right now, near or far, is someone you are trying to keep safe. Yes, even you reading this right now.

I find myself angry that measures weren’t taken sooner. I find myself frustrated at people in positions of power who don’t just do nothing, but enact further harm by their actions. People much smarter than I can explain the science behind things. We should be listening to the science and those who speak with unwavering clarity, honesty, and compassion. Every single person fighting this on the frontlines—be it doctor, nurse, mailperson, grocery store clerk—is a hero. Period. There is no room for argument there.

But I don’t want to sit here and list all the ways I’m angry, frustrating, howling with something that I don’t really have a name for. I have both too many words and yet not enough. The same goes for feelings.

These are unusual times, and things are probably going to be screwed up for a while. A month ago, I had plans I was very much looking forward to, and it seems like a lifetime ago. But plans can be delayed, and if that’s the worst of it, then I’ll light a candle for a deity of any creed. Right now, life is settling into a waiting period of abnormal normalcy, while we sit and hold our breath and try to survive.

And it’s okay if all you do is get out of bed, some days. It’s okay if you wear your PJs or eat ice cream for breakfast. You don’t have to learn how to paint like Rembrandt or cook like Julia Child. Anyone who tries to tell you differently, that you’ll write the next great novel, because oh my god free time? That person is an idiot and jerk and should be told so. Quarantine isn’t a vacation. It’s not a writer’s retreat.

Here is what I do know. I know what I am grateful for, right now in this moment. I know that to amuse myself, I’ll do Leia buns and record bites of songs and put goofy things on the internet because it might make others smile. It’s cheesy to say that we’re all in this together, even if we’re socially distancing. But yeah, we are. And you can call me Pollyanna, but you won’t be the first to do that—and I’ve been called worse.

Right now, I know the people who matter to me, even if it doesn’t make any logical sense. Feelings don’t ever make sense, and they’re not supposed to. It’s important to check on your people, whomever they may be, and I have made a point to do that. Maybe not perfectly, because goodness, I am far from perfect. But the effort matters, even if it’s just, “Hey, I’m thinking of you,” without any strings attached to it. Sometimes, people just need to know that you care and that you’re there. The sixth love language, after all, is distance: https://psiloveyou.xyz/the-6th-love-language-89e699d6e66e.

I have been lucky, too, that those I love have checked in on me. Sent photos, silly or otherwise. I’ve gotten to do video chats with a whole heap of you awesome weirdos, some still on the books, and I’m loving that. It’s like taking a breath of fresh air in the middle of a forest fire, kittens.

So, hopefully, we will all get through this. Hopefully, we will muddle through this current madness and find our way to the other side.

And when we goddamn do, I have a list of things I’m holding close to my heart. People I want to see. Trips I want to take. Folks I want to hug the ever-loving crap out of. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m glad you’re here. And if you’re reading this, I adore you.

Stay safe, nerds. XO

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 4, 2020 at 2:57 pm

    Your description of your loss of your mom really hits home for me. It’s amazing, the details one recollects of the waiting which was both too long and too short. The sounds, the smells, the winnowing away of the person you know and remember. I wish I could forget. And these times do make one remember that feeling of apprehension, of impending loss. It’s made it rather hard to focus.

    Sending you a hug. Thank you for your words. They’re a gift.

    • April 4, 2020 at 3:39 pm

      This means so much to me. Thank you! Sending a hug back!

  2. April 4, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    Beautiful, Ali, as always. Loved it. ❤

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