On Death and Dying

Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be sitting in a hotel in Huntsville, Alabama thinking about my final exit from this earth. Yet, while my grandson is enjoying his first experience at Space Camp, I am pounding out a proposal for a new work of non-fiction that has to do with dying. Those that know me, really know me, understand I have no fear of dying. And I am just crazy enough to be able to say it! My peace about dying is assured.

Why am I blogging about it? Because I am beginning to find humor in all that remains to be done! I swear since I have been born, I have been on one big run. From a child, I remember being told to “slow down.” But when you are “wired” for speed, you can’t slow down, just like if you are “wired” to laugh when you are afraid or are being yelled at. (Yes, I do that, as well.) You can imagine as I approach a BIG birthday, why the thought of dying and death crosses my mind a little more often than it used to. It seems I am racing toward a finish line with no ability to slow time down. I’m feeling out of control. (Which I am.)

Every ache and pain that arises out of nowhere is a constant reminder of how much I need to get done before I go. I know my days are numbered but do I really want to leave my closets and cupboards in such disarray for my son and his wife to clean out?  I can hear my daughter-in-law’s voice when she arrives at my stuffed closet and pulls out that Little House on the Prairie dress I have saved for forty-seven years. She’ll probably say “Really? Bless her heart.” Those words will reverberate in my ears until I clean that closet.  She won’t get that was the dress I wore on the day I told my beloved father-in-law I was pregnant. She won’t understand that he’d laughed with delight, but told me he’d figured as much because the dress made me look like I was already nine months pregnant. I was briefly crushed as I thought that calico dress made me look really pretty. When he died of a heart attack a few days later, I could never let that ugly dress go. I have it still, a reminder of a father who loved me.

So I think. Will the toilet be clean should an EMT have to use it when they come get me? Should I shave my legs should one of them pat my skin while we ride to the hospital or morgue? Maybe it’s time to cut my hair really short as someone could run their fingers through it to help me look more presentable as I waste away in a hospital bed.

Then there is the eyebrow situation. Maybe I should take my good friend’s advice and just get them tattooed on. With my luck, I’d have a beautician who paid more attention to her cell phone than my face and I’d end up with brows that looked like I was always asking a question.

I don’t want anyone fighting over my fur coats. Or jewelry. My daughter-in-law will take anyone out when it comes to diamonds. We are bling girls, her and I. But she hates fur so they will be distributed as promised….maybe. She loves animals and without my unwritten will they might get tossed.

How will my son find the passwords to all my social media sites? If he can’t find them will his friends forever remember me by that one photo posting mistake where I’m on top of a table, and my dress is pulled up over my head?

Have I made my wished known about burial or will I be relegated to the burn barrel and Bic lighter my son has threatened for years?

Will anyone have anything good to say about me or will they only remember I talked too much?  Did I make a difference in anyone’s life? Is being prepared on the inside enough to eliminate the chaos I may leave for others on the outside? Will my clutter be forgiven?

Just thinking……and laughing inside! Got to run now.  After all, it’s what I do!

 

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Deciding on A Point-of-View

One of the things that hit me when I first went back to school for my M.F.A. was the true lack of knowledge I had about point-of-view when writing a story. I remember well our first professor, Michael Lennon, the very talented author who wrote Norman Mailer’s biography. We were standing in the cafeteria, me, nervously mingling with the other new students, he, engaging in conversation with another professor.

All of a sudden he turned to me and said, “Do you know what point-of-view in story is?” His white bushy eyebrows were furrowed into a question mark. I, in my usual deer-in-the-headlights fashion, stood open-mouthed, my gaping hole filled with a half-eaten slice of pizza, and blurted, “Huh?” He whirled back the other professor and said, “See? They, (meaning me,) don’t even know the basics.” The disgust in his voice washed over me like a crested wave. I shuffled away, head down, a long piece of mozzarella still clinging to the side of my mouth.

Fast forward to now. My third work has been recently published.  During these past few years, I’ve had to dissect point-of-view and structure to the point of ad-nauseum. But you know what? Professor Lennon was right. I didn’t know squat. I’d start writing a story with one point-of-view and then change the point-of-view without even realizing it.

Here’s an example.

Emily’s watched her mother move to the kitchen window. Maureen hated days like this, days when gray covered the sky like an unopened umbrella.

The story starts out with Emily’s point-of-view, but snaps into Maureen’s point-of-view. How do you know that? As the point-of-view character, Emily cannot know that Maureen hated the day unless her mother had used dialog telling her such. Everything thought must come from Emily’s point-of-view for the reader to understand the story. When the author changes point-of-view, they must use distinct triggers, so that the reader will understand the point-of-view has changed. The better use of the second sentence to keep it in Emily’s point-of-view should have been:

Emily’s watched her mother move to the kitchen window. She knew her mother hated days like this, days when gray covered the sky like an unopened umbrella.

See, even being blonde, I finally got it!