Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I realise that this may just relate to me personally, but I've just sat in tears reading this, so I'm going to transcribe it here, so I can remember.

I've just finished reading Nora Ephron's collection of thoughts "I feel bad about my neck". The book is a small collection of musings and thoughts on various subjects: I hate my purse; Parenting in three stages etc. The final chapter is called "Considering the Alternative" and it is her thoughts on ageing. She begins by saying, in summary, that there's nothing good about it, the getting of wisdom doesn't compensate for the loss of flexibility, memory loss and ill health of those you love.

My friend Judy died last year. She was the person I told everything to. She was my best friend, my extra sister, my true mother, sometimes even my daughter, she was all these things, and one day she called up to say, the weirdest thing has happened, there's a lump on my tongue. Less than a year later, she was dead. She was sixty-six years old. She had no interest in dying, right to the end. She died horribly. And now she's gone. I think of her every day, sometimes six or seven times a day. This is the weekend she and I usually went to the spring garden and antiques show in Bridgehampton together. The fire screen in the next room is something she spotted in a corner of that antiques show, and above the fireplace is a poster of a seagull that she gave me only two summers ago. It's June now; this is the month one or the other of us would make corn-bread pudding, a ridiculous recipe we both loved that's made with corn-bread mix and canned cream corn. She made hers with sour cream, and I made mine without. "Hi, hon", she would say when she called. "Hi, doll." "Hello, my darling." I don't think she ever called me, or anyone else she knew, by their actual name. I have her white cashmere shawl. I wore it for days after her death; I wrapped myself up in it; I even slept in it. but now I can't bear to wear it because it feels as if that's all there is left of my Judy. I want to talk to her. I want to have lunch with her. I want her to give me a book she just read and loved. She is my phantom limb and I can't believe I'm here without her.


My friend Henry died a few months ago. He was what we refer to as one of the lucky ones. He died at eighty-two, having lived a full, rich, and successful life. He had coped brilliantly with macular degeneration - for almost two years, most of his friends had no idea that he couldn't see - and then he wrote a book about going blind that will probably outlast all the rest of his accomplishments, which were considerable. He died of heart failure, peacefully in his sleep, with his adoring family around him. The day before his death, he asked to be brought a large brown accordian folder he kept in his office. In it were love letters he had received when he was younger. He sent them back to the women who'd written them, wrote them all lovely notes, and destroyed the rest. What's more, he left complete, detailed instructions for his funeral, including the music he wanted - all of this laid out explicitly in a file on his computer he called "Exit".


"I don't want to die," Judy said.

"I believe in miracles," she said.

"I love you," she said.

"Can you believe this?" she said.

No, I can't believe it. I still can't believe it.

But let's not be morbid.

Let's put little smiley faces on our faces.


Eat, drink and be merry.

Seize the day.

Life goes on.

It could be wore.

And the ever popular "Consider the alternative."

And meanwhile, here we are.

What is to be done.

I don't know. I hope that's clear. In a few minutes I will be through with writing this piece, and I will go back to life itself. Squirrels have made a hole in the roof, and we don't know quite what to do about it. Soon it will rain; we should probably take the cushions inside. I need more bath oil. And that reminds me to say something about bath oil. I use this bath oil I happen to love. It's called Dr. Hauschka's lemon bath. It costs about twenty dollars a bottle, which is enough for about two weeks of baths if you follow the instructions. The instructions say one capful per bath. But a capful gets you nowhere. A capful is not enough. I have known this for a long time. But if the events of the last few years have taught me anything, it's that I'm going to feel like an idiot if I die tomorrow and I skimped on bath oil today. So I use quite a lot of bath oil. More than you could ever imagine. After I take a bath, my bathtub is as dangerous as an oil slick. But thanks to the bath oil, I'm as smooth as silk. I am going out to buy more, right now. Goodbye.


Julia said...

Wow. She's a grieving woman. I can see how you could relate. She describes the everyday reality so well. x

kristi said...

it is written so brilliantly and felt without hesitation.

Sandy said...

poignant. death is not an easy subject.

~ Kim ~ said...

I've often thought about death and getting older. I lost grandparents and an aunt in the space of 2yrs so it felt like death was something we just had to get through. Now with kids I don't know how to feel about it except that I want to grow old with the husband and hope we die in peace together.