It’s been an emotional year. I’ve attended two funerals, and wasn’t able to go to two more. These deaths were all unexpected, even for the elderly man and the friend who had cancer. No one was ready.
I’m not very good at talking about what these deaths have meant to me. Even though I know I should have gone to the receptions to support the families of the deceased, I couldn’t make myself do it. What could I possibly say? Instead, after accepting the well-intended but poorly timed greetings of those I hadn’t seen in a long time, those people who were brought back into my life only by our mutual sadness over the life of a friend, I retreated to my car, where I cried big hiccuping tears until my heart stopped hurting and I could breathe again.
I wasn’t particularly close to any of those who died this past year, but I cared for them, and those who loved them, deeply, and sometimes that empathy was like a knife to my heart. I continue to mourn for the sadness of those families still trying to recover from that pit of grief, some nearly a year later.
I don’t know if I am alone in this, but the thoughts of those who have, to put it euphemistically, passed on linger always on the edges of my mind. Sometimes I close my eyes and can see, perfectly clearly, my cousin, who died in an unnecessary and completely preventable drunk driving accident several years ago, lying unnaturally still in the coffin surrounded by perfumed white flowers. I’m starting to feel crowded in by thoughts of those who have passed; I think of them in the grocery store, in the morning as I get ready for work, in idle and unexpected moments.
I say all of this by way of explaining that I’ve been thinking about death a great deal this past year, about what causes it, whether we can understand it, what it means.
My Netflix DVD of “The Bucket List” arrived the same day that I was notified of the death of a family friend. Considering the content, I put it on a shelf and ignored it until I could wrangle my feelings.
As movies about an impending death go, it was pretty terrible. (Last Holiday was excellent, though, and I highly recommend it.) It was trite and predictable and completely lacking heart. But it, coupled with the weight of the funerals I’ve recently attended, did make me think about what things I want to do before I shake off this mortal coil.
One of those things was “write a book.” By now, fueled forward by NaNoWriMo, I’ve written three. I find it curious that, while I would like to be published — I would definitely like to be published! — that doesn’t make my list. I don’t feel like my life will be any less fulfilled if that doesn’t happen. Other things matter more, like seeing Ireland or getting married or controlling my career’s path. Writing the stories, that was the important thing.
I need to keep working on my bucket list; so much of it right now is very vague and undetermined. But I’m curious as to where ‘publishing’ falls on other writers’ lists?
And maybe, just maybe, I’ll change my mind about the importance of publishing when I’m not as melancholy. Maybe.
Is publishing an important life goal/bucket list item for you?
6 responses to “Filling Buckets”
I’m sorry about your year. I had one like that last year with two colleagues, an aunt and a neighbour (this coming Monday exactly a year ago) passing away, and that’s only counting those to whom I was somehow directly connected. It is true what you say – they linger in one’s thoughts and one doesn’t always know what to do with them when they show up.
I thought this year we would be spared, until my wife’s friend and colleague was killed in a car accident on Sunday evening. We’re headed to the hospital now to visit her husband. Neither my wife nor I know what to say to him. Ironic, as I’m trained in trauma and grief counselling. All that training means nothing when it’s someone you know.
I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s hard to send hugs through the internet, but I’m trying right now.
Thanks. And right back at you.
As to your question, I think getting published is quite high up the list for me. It would be something to look back at and say, I did that, that’s mine, my contribution to the world. Sure I’ve made and will make other contributions, but a book with my name on the cover would be something uniquely tangible for someone whose day job revolves around relationships and emotions. Of course a Master’s or Doctoral thesis would be equally tangible, but a published novel seems more likely the way my studies are currently going…
Death is a hard thing to process. So many new understandings or new realizations. So much to understand and deal with all at once. My mother this year and before that a few others in my family. Death has a way of refocusing you, adjusting your reality.
I know for one I feel less fear, as a whole, now that I am without my mother. It didn’t change or add anything to my bucket list or even remind me that I am mortal. What it did do was make more things seem possible. Its hard to explain.
I’m so sorry, Adam. I hope my writing about this wasn’t difficult for you.
Difficult? No. Not even close. Cathartic is more like it.