“Our doubts are traitors
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt.” ~ William Shakespeare, from Measure for Measure (I,iv)
Monday afternoon, partly cloudy, 55 degrees.
Monday misgivings . . .
I was so eager for the internet to be restored, and then when it was, I think that I froze internally. I stared at the posts that I had written on Word, and then realized that I didn’t have images or poems or songs, and I immediately became dismayed, and then distracted, and then I ended up playing hours of spider solitaire.
Later, I was so angry with myself that I decided I would post everything today, with or without images. I compromised with that perfection side of myself and settled for adding an image at the top of Friday’s and Saturday’s posts, even though it makes me view them as being incomplete, somehow. I tend to think that since I’m so heavy on verbiage that the inclusion of images helps to break up everything and make it easier to read. (Does it?)
But I did have a good idea about which music to include, and the poems were actually easy as I keep a collection of them for future posts; it’s just a matter of marrying themes, if possible.
Anyway, that’s what happened to my big plans for back posting yesterday. Whatever . . . . . . . . . . .
World Book Day or World Book and Copyright Day (also known as International Day of the Book or World Book Days) is a yearly event on 23 April, organized by UNESCO to promote reading, publishing and copyright. It is hoped that World Book and Copyright Day will increase people’s understanding of copyright laws and other measures to protect intellectual copyright.
In the United Kingdom, the day is instead recognised on the first Thursday in March.
World Book Day was celebrated for the first time on 23 April 1995. The date is symbolic for world literature. Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died on 23 April 1616.
23 April has also been taken as Shakespeare’s birthday (he was baptised on 26 April 1564, and his actual date of birth is unknown). This year, 2014, marks William Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday.
The Top 12 Shakespeare Quotes
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. (Julius Caesar)
To be, or not to be: that is the question. (Hamlet)
The course of true love never did run smooth. (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
If I lose mine honour, I lose myself. (Antony and Cleopatra)
All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts. (As You Like It)
Now is the winter of our discontent. (Richard III)
Brevity is the soul of wit. (Hamlet)
Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em. (Twelfth Night)
Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. (All’s Well That Ends)
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow. (Romeo and Juliet)
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve. (Othello)
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. (Hamlet)
One of my favorite scenes, from Henry V (IV,iii) from one of my all-time favorite versions, starring Kenneth Branagh:
Enter the KING
WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” ~ William Shakespeare, from Macbeth
Alexis’s friend Jennifer died today. Jennifer, who had so many reprieves, who lived to share another Christmas and another Christmas with her young son, and even, almost a third Christmas.
When I first wrote about Jennifer it was in September of 2010, and everyone was so certain that she would die before the end of the year. I include myself in that everyone. But Jennifer fooled each of us. She left the hospital, went home, and lived. She lived through two more (three?) of her son Reilly’s birthdays; she lived long enough to come to Alexis’s baby showers and to take a bus to the hospital when Alexis was in labor.
She lived, and then, she didn’t.
As if I needed yet another reason to hate November.
“Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.” ~ William Faulkner, from The Wild Palms
You see, I feel nothing but guilt about Jennifer. I was not a good friend to her, and even when Corey mentioned that I might want to call her because she was sick again, I chose not to. I just couldn’t do it, couldn’t put aside my own feelings of dread at facing another young person’s death, couldn’t find a way around my own discomfort to call this sweet, sweet girl. God, she could talk your ear off, and the drugs made her ramble even more. I am not patient with such things, witness my attitude with my own mother.
And the whole time Alexis was pregnant, Jennifer would find things for her that she might be able to use. Jennifer was a world-class thrifter. But that’s how she was, truly, thinking about other people. Looking out for others even when she already bore so much more than she deserved.
I thought about Jennifer a lot since that September in 2010. I was beyond happy when she was around to spend Christmas with Reilly that year and then the next, and then that thing happened that always happens: complacency. Just as with my brother-in-law Patrick: you get so used to the person being in a certain state of health that that state becomes normal. So when Patrick got sick again, it just didn’t occur to me that he would die. Neither did it occur to me that Jennifer might actually die this time, even though within my heart I knew that it was a strong probability.
“How could I have been so ignorant? she thinks. So stupid, so unseeing, so given over to carelessness. But without such ignorance, such carelessness, how could we live? If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next—if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions—you’d be doomed.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from The Blind Assassin
Funnily enough, today I was watching Sesame Street with Olivia, and I had a flash of memory: When Lex was younger and one or more of her friends had spent the night, I used to go in and jump on the bed and use Elmo’s voice and yell at them to get up. Weird, I know, but true. I thought of that today, before I got the news. And then a few hours later a got a text that Jennifer had died.
And so I wept. I wept hot tears of hate. Hatred at myself. Hatred at fate. Hatred at cancer. Hatred at whatever it is that decides to inflict such pain upon a sweet, talkative young girl who never had all of the comforts that Alexis had, who came from a broken family filled with dysfunctions—how that girl moved beyond that and became a wonderful mother to her son, the kind of mother she never had.
I wept at myself for failing to do the right thing, and then, I realized that my tears were also selfish tears, appropriating Jennifer’s life and death to add to my own litany of loss, and I am repulsed by myself. How can I cry for Jennifer and turn it into tears for my own losses? Who does this? I am sickened, and so I weep more, weep until I cannot breathe and am on the verge of hyperventilating because the overwhelming sensation that I feel is guilt: guilt over not calling Jennifer, guilt over not keeping in touch with Patrick, guilt over not being more patient with my mother, guilt over not going back to the hospital in time to be with my father so that he did not die alone, and always, always, always, guilt over Caitlin.
“Youth offers the promise of happiness, but life offers the realities of grief.” ~ Nicholas Sparks, from The Rescue
I won’t scream and say that it’s unfair, that it’s unfair because she was young. Death holds sway over who it will. Youth’s seeming immortality has no pardon from its sway, is impotent in its presence.
When is enough enough?
I know that I am merely screaming into the wind here, that nothing can change anything, yet I am so filled with self-loathing right now that it just makes me cry even harder.
We are careless. Humans are careless. We make assumptions. We delude ourselves. It is easier this way. We do not want cold truths. We do not want blunt realities. Allow us to coast along with our false certainties, to be comforted by our denial. Yes, that is better, is it not?
My dog Shakes used to get very worried when I had crying jags. He would come in and try to get in my lap and Alfie would bark shrilly as if that could stem my tears. It was harder to cry when that was going on. I suddenly remembered that in the middle of my keening, and then I cried even harder.
Granted, it has already been a very shaky November so far as it was apparent that I was well on my way to a major fall. But now? I don’t even know how to think. I’m just letting my fingers form the words for me as I do not want to think about anything too much. I do not want to see Jennifer’s face in my mind, especially as I cannot recall Caitlin’s face. I know. That makes no sense, but it feels like yet another betrayal.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” ~ C.S. Lewis, from A Grief Observed
Jennifer was someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s lover, and someone’s mother. Jennifer used to put baby oil in her hair when she was a teenager because it was curly and she wanted to make it lay flat. I’m certain that Jennifer is the first person Alexis got drunk with, and for a while I would not let Alexis spend the night at Jennifer’s apartment. Turns out my daughter was probably the instigator all along, but I blamed Jennifer and Amanda. Not my Alexis.
But we do what we can as parents. We try to make the right decisions. Try to guide our sons and daughters into having the right relationships, and even when they don’t, we make excuses for them because after all, they are our sons and daughters.
After today a young son lost his mother. Reilly will not have his mommy to spend Christmas with him, to celebrate his birthday with him, to see him go on his first date, to watch him graduate. His drug addict father hasn’t been in the picture in years. He will have his uncle who helped Jennifer with Reilly after she got out of the hospital. But no matter how much the people in his life who love him may try, they will never ever be able to fill that void. No one can replace your mother, especially when you are young.
” . . . you know you can go your whole life collecting days, and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back.” ~ Mitch Albom, from For One More Day
I haven’t talked much about suicide on this blog for many reasons. I will only say this: that knowing what it would do to my children kept me from making foolish mistakes. Jennifer had no choice in this. And try as she did, the fates were against her. Her death will affect Reilly in so very many ways, ways in which people could never predict.
Caitlin never had a choice, nor did she have a chance, but that never kept us from hoping until hope was taken away.
Hope. That four letter word that is probably more powerful than love or hate. Hope allows us to fool ourselves in ways that love and hate never do. Hope keeps us coming back. Hope carries us to places we might not dare to travel. And then when hope is lost, that my friends, that is the worst loss of all.
Goodbye, Jennifer. I hope you were loved much as you deserved.
“Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” ~ W.B. Yeats, from “The Stolen Child”
A song I used to play over and over on my piano: Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata