Once I fell backwards from the branches of a willow tree, straight down onto my spine on a wooden picnic table in my best friend’s backyard. It knocked the breath from me in a painful whoof! and for a moment I couldn’t assess the damage, I couldn’t tell how badly I’d been hurt.

Almost every morning I scan through the obituaries. I look for people under a certain age. I look for birth dates close to mine.

Cancer.

Car accidents.

Heart attacks.

Passed away on. Her passions included. He will be missed by. Remembrances can be made to.

I used to love the stomach-dropping sensation of a plane’s takeoff, the moment all that metal and bulk is heaved into the sky and you can feel the immense strain and effort it takes. Now I clench my jaw and peer out the windows and think please and eventually oh, just get it over with. Go ahead and fall from the sky because you’re going to do it anyway, I’m tired of worrying about it. Just get it over with.

I don’t really mean it and the complicated mechanisms of flight don’t listen. They are busy. They have nothing to do with me, even when I’m convinced they have everything to do with me.

What will you remember, will you remember anything? A zipline across wild blueberries and tall green ferns in Michigan. The sound of surf and cold salt-spray on my lips in Oregon. My husband’s hand in mine the day we were married. My babies’ first cries, first smiles, first steps. Stop: rewind. Don’t go so fast.

The plane is going to fall and I don’t know when it will happen and I am scared it will be too soon. I am scared it will hurt. Will it be like falling backwards from a tall tree. Will my breath be knocked away.

Will, instead, it be slow and terrible. Will I become a burden.

Tick-tock, tick-tock. Shut up. Fuck you. I’m not listening. You’re the sly, rotted promise of hospital beds and oxygen masks and last-ditch medications and protruding bones and failing organs and the smell of shit, but I don’t believe in you. You’re not even real. You’re invisible. You can’t steal from me because I won’t let you. You can’t darken my life because I am turning on all the motherfucking lights one by one.

I look through the paper. (My name isn’t there.)

Comments

76 Responses to “In measured hundredweight and penny pound”

  1. Lori on March 17th, 2009 10:33 pm

    I didn’t cry until I got to that bit about your wedding day, and now I’m bawling my head off. Whoosh.

  2. Michelle Whitehurst on March 18th, 2009 5:14 am

    Wow! That was incredibly deep and made me tear up. Ithink you captured how so many of us feel about this. Wow…just..wow.

  3. kim on March 18th, 2009 5:40 am

    you must write a book

  4. Anais on March 18th, 2009 5:50 am

    This entry was AMAZING! I even cried!!

    I can’t wait for you to write a book. I really can’t. I can tell it will be one of those that I won’t be able to put down, and that when I finish it, I won’t want it to have ended; and I will just pick it up and read it all over again… and again.

  5. Claire on March 18th, 2009 5:57 am

    Your writing is awesome. Am envious. :)

  6. Shutter Bitch on March 18th, 2009 6:39 am

    Every once in awhile, I run across somehting that reminds me how fleeting this life is, how cluttered I’ve let my personal life become with appointments and to dos and how I need to slow the righteous fuck down and live it instead of being so caught up and carried along obliviously BY it.

    This did that for me. Stop, rewind, don’t go so fast…

  7. Shutter Bitch on March 18th, 2009 6:40 am

    Oh, and WRITE THAT BOOK ALREADY. Please? I’d totally buy it. The hardcover, even.

  8. bessie.viola on March 18th, 2009 7:19 am

    Chills. This is painful to read, yet still beautiful.

    It doesn’t end here…

    Seconding all the opinions above: I want that book!

  9. Kelli on March 18th, 2009 7:23 am

    Excellent post, excellent writing.

    Thank you.

  10. eb on March 18th, 2009 7:51 am

    Stunning.
    Beautiful.
    I’m not looking forward to the reality of death, but I feel like I’m not as panicked about it as I was. I do volunteer work with kids with cancer and death is a part of that. Too big apart. The first funeral I went to sunk me into my first real depression and the second and thrid came right after and pulled me lower. I had to face that dark reality and make my peace.
    I decided that I don’t have to understand or know what’s coming to be at peace in life, so why should that be different in death?

    Look at these…
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/gallery/2008/mar/31/lifebeforedeath?picture=333325401

  11. Nell on March 18th, 2009 7:53 am

    Your writing as always …amazing. Perfect timing around here as a dear friend just lost her brother very suddenly yesterday. One day here – oops, next day gone.
    Having suffered that very same type of loss myself it is like a punch in the stomach but also a reminder not to listen to the tick-tock bit of life but instead live it up -suck the marrow of it.

  12. shriek house on March 18th, 2009 9:11 am

    I love how you acknowledge this fear… look it right in the eye, really, and say Don’t hide, I can see you. What would happen though, if instead of banishing it, you invited it in for tea?

    For me the timing of your post is surreal… the doctor found a lump in my breast yesterday, so suddenly the dark thoughts have a little more force. I think I need to listen, maybe there’s something I can learn.

  13. Stephanie on March 18th, 2009 11:42 am

    Did you have to post that less than a week before me and my insane fear of flying have to get on a plane? Sheesh!

  14. Karelle on March 18th, 2009 11:48 am

    Wow – I really needed that today. Thank you.

  15. michelle on March 18th, 2009 12:27 pm

    And now with Natasha Richardson on her death bed this really brought it home….. Death can come at any age. Frightening.

  16. Pam on March 18th, 2009 4:09 pm

    I’ve read your blog for a few months now. I think you are pretty funny but a few times I’ve thought…wow, I could write a blog, seems pretty easy. After reading this entry, I think you are a gifted writer. Today I read it for the second time and I’ve cried both times. So hauntingly touching. Thank you for putting it into words.

  17. Jules on March 18th, 2009 4:15 pm

    Linda, I will echo the numerous comments that circle around the theme of, “Woman, write your novel(s) already!”

    I can already tell, from posts like these, that it will be one of those stirring reading experiences where I slow down and savor the final pages with a mixture of sadness and happiness, not wanting it all to end.

  18. chomskyftw on March 18th, 2009 6:45 pm

    Has somebody been watching Six Feet Under?

    Friggin intense post. Nicely done.

  19. Anonymous on March 18th, 2009 6:55 pm

    And there are some of us who don’t have husbands or children or siblings (or mothers anymore) who are realizing that we *will* die with no family to leave behind. It’s not that we didn’t want it, it just didn’t happen. So no one will particularly miss us when we die, not like that. This is not easy to live with, every day, when everyone is celebrating connections all the time.

  20. Anonymous on March 18th, 2009 7:04 pm

    Whew, what a self-pitying post that last one was! I’m embarrassed that I wrote it! Who knows whether or not there will be family in the end…but I guess it’s ok to feel that it is really hard being alone now.

  21. willikat on March 18th, 2009 7:53 pm

    the brilliant part of this post is not just the topic you bravely tackle but the very specific memories you bring up–the colors, the smells, the tastes, the sights. the brilliance of life against that dark place. awesome.

  22. Jennifer on March 19th, 2009 6:11 am

    I LOVE THIS. i love everything you write, but i especially love this. i love that you love writing it, too.

  23. Jeanne on March 19th, 2009 11:08 am

    Shriekhouse I was in your boat a year ago. The waiting is the worst. I hope you will have answers soon. Mine turned out to be stage II breast cancer. It was the size of a pea. Next month will be a year since my lumpectomy. I feel very fortunate that is was caught early and easily treatable. I wish you the best with whatever answers you receive.

    I have faced down the demons twice in the past 2 1/2 years. I had a life threatening illness and surgery 4 months after my youngest son was born and then last year the breast cancer. I feel lucky to be here and believe my family kept me going though I know sometimes that is not enough. You never know what the universe will throw at you. Both of my illnesses came out of the blue. I have learned that I am stronger that I ever knew as is my husband. He took care of me, a 4 month non sleeping boy and a scared to death 3 1/2 year old girl. We, of course, had great help from family and friends through all of it but the biggest burden was on him. What a man.

    I look at the obituaries every day. I look for people around my age. I am 44. I also look for women who died of breast cancer. Sometimes it makes me cry. I also look at babies. My eldest daughter was a preemie and I am thankful every day she is fine and had no complications. Mostly it makes me feel lucky to have what I have and still be here to mostly enjoy it.

    I don’t dwell on death that much. If I get a recurrence of breast cancer I will worry about it then. Most of the time I am too busy living and know there is not a whole lot I can do to control death. What happens happens. I, of couse, do my best to stay alive. I understand worrying about death and sometimes I do go there but not as much since I’ve sort of been there. Mostly I have a big sense of whew missed that bullet let’s get on with it and enjoy what’s leftof this wonderful journey called life.

  24. Christen on March 19th, 2009 4:19 pm

    Wow, Sundry Woman, this is a powerful piece of writing.

    As a Hospice chaplain I face death every day (sometimes many times a day) and it is no easier for me. I still see death as the enemy. He still pisses me off.

    But, I watch patients die with grace and peace and acceptance and trust and recognize that there can be peace.

    And go back to my office and pray like hell that I’ve got miles to go yet.

  25. Sonja on March 19th, 2009 9:38 pm

    Maybe I’ll throw my task list out the window… My son’s 2nd birthday is this Sunday. Thanks for the reminder of slowing down and enjoying it all! And I HATE flying too!!

  26. Willl on December 14th, 2014 11:35 pm

    I was moved. Nice work.

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