Have you ever had the experience of grief over one specific person or event and it triggers a veritable parade of sad things to think about? You know what I mean--you can be upset about a recent death (or a break-up, even) and that leads to playing "Paint It Black" on endless repeat and then you start thinking about every single sad thing that's ever happened to you, including the ending of The Fault in Our Stars (or if you are older Brian's Song or Love Story). And you end up crying with your face all puffy and red (unless you are a pretty crier, in which case I don't like you). And if you are able to really work yourself into an epic cry, you can get to the “sobbing so hard it's difficult to catch your breath” phase, and then you have truly arrived at cathartic misery. Until the storm passes and the seas calm and you are left feeling empty and wrung out, but also fulfilled in some way that feels necessary and right. Or maybe I'm the only one who does this on occasion. Let me know before I start to feel like a freak.
And while I didn't quite reach the epic stage this weekend, I definitely hit a rough patch and had a hard time. Because I'm not as young as I used to be (who is, of course?), the sad parade is getting longer and longer. And because I'm hitting the time of life where parents start dropping like rain in the Amazon, it's been a tough year in terms of having abundant reminders of my mortality (in the form of four funerals and a wedding so far), continually ensuring that I remember to carpe diem. Time's a passing, and there's none to lose.
And these milestones make me think of those for whom mortality has no pull--especially vampires, the fae, and other supernatural beings who don't need to worry about death and dying unless their heads happen to become separated from their bodies. I think there are two sides to this particular thought process--the pain of an almost endless death watch as supes love and lose their human counterparts (can you imagine what their Paint It Black evenings look like?) and the flip side of that pillow where no one ever dies and what that does to the whole circle of life concept.
I'm reading the last (until August when the actual last book will be published) of Jessica Sims' Midnight Liaisons series right now. And I'm giving serious thought to adding the termination of this series to my death watch list, I'm so sad that it's ending. This one focuses on Marie, who has a terminal disease and is seeking a vampire to turn her and make her immortal. But as she implements her plan for everlasting life, she becomes motivated to think about what endless nights look like without love and family, meaning or purpose. She's beginning to wonder if life is always the best choice. And it makes me wonder whether I would want to Paint It Black indefinitely and trade in my mortal coil for eternal existence.
I don't think so, in fact. Of course I reserve the right to continue with this train of thought and explore the implications much more fully down the line at some point. And to change my mind, of course, as is the prerogative of every woman. But at this juncture, I'm not at all certain I'd want to give up my sadness and the texture it adds to my life and my perspective. Nor do I want it to last forever, though, as immortality would require.
Death is a part of life, inevitably. It's frightening and often devastating for those left behind and those whose deaths come with a date certain stamped on the box, as when a cancer patient is given weeks or months to live. But it's something we all need to confront, both for ourselves and for those we love.
We can hope that the natural order of things is observed, as it is when our parents die before us, which has been my experience of the past year. But when the natural order becomes unbalanced, as when my teenaged children attended the funeral of a friend recently, it becomes much harder to accept and process.
But there is no way around the death watch except through it. We don't have Marie's option to seduce a vampire into making us one of its own, and there is no other supernatural get-out-of-jail-free card available to us. We all stop passing Go at some point, and none of us will collect our $200 when that time arrives.
So I'll crank up the Stones and I'll have a good cry, and I'll get on with my life. I’ll play “She’s a Rainbow” instead of “Paint It Black.” And maybe I’ll throw in a little “Emotional Rescue,” just in case.