Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Giving Me Grief

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  • Danielle, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Craig, I get what you’re saying in the abstract and might even agree with it, but then you get down to specifics and it’s all over for me. Once someone tells the story of that person that they loved and who is gone, I don’t ever want death to happen! So my ‘people who are allowed to die’ list is vanishingly small. It’s, like, Hitler and Stalin and Michael Vick.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3669 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Oh, Emma. Heartbreak. Grief is a weight. And a wait. Take your time with it.

    And I hope you keep talking to your Mum. For comfort, and because sometimes, she'll answer you. In your head, or in dreams, but she will.


    I think I may have told this story hereabouts before, but:

    It was a couple of months after my father died, and a certain literary brouhaha had just broken. I'd dropped the boys off at school and daycare and was driving home with no idea how to start picking my way through the moral and practical labyrinth in front of me, in the few hours before I had to turn around and fetch the kids again.

    I found myself saying out loud "What do I do next, Dad? WHAT do I do?"

    Clear as anything, and completely unexpectedly, came the answer :

    "Invoice for the work you've done already."

    (Perhaps you had to know my dad, and me, and our respective levels of business acuity, to know why I was suddenly laughing as hard as I was crying.)

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1431 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    You've cured my dry eyes and blocked nose, Emma, thank you. You've also been missed, during this break, and there was me thinking you were probably sunning it up.

    Sorry for your loss.

    RIP Audrey.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8737 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Jolisa,

    Love that story, just love it! Whatever it was, it happened, it was real. One of the mysteries....Gorgeous!

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Lovely thoughts, Emma. A pity my mother and your mother never met--she was a little Jewish lady who dyed her hair into her nineties and rang me, with coy allusions to boyfriends staying over, in her eighties.

    arohanui

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2345 posts Report Reply

  • Nat Websta,

    I'm crying at my desk... oh that we could all be so eloquent in our greif.

    My greatest sympathy for your loss, Emma.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Jacqui Dunn,

    There's no reason the mind can't cause us to see things during extreme grief and stress. It's probably a good thing, even, so long as it doesn't keep happening, it could help relieve the strain. I had two independent people approach me after my last funeral oration, saying they saw my Grandmother standing beside me, when I turned and spoke to the coffin directly. I got the idea to do this from a tangi I went to many years ago, it had a really strong impact on me, helping me remember the old guy as he was when alive. Clearly it had a similar impact on other people, perhaps startling their perceptions. Either way, it felt good, speaking to the dead directly. Emma has done this here, and it's much less dry and detached than an enumeration of one's memories of the person, much more involving to an audience.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8737 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    "This is where we really go when we die - into the hearts of those who loved us."

    - a writer whose work I don't normally like -

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 805 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa, in reply to Danielle,

    Once someone tells the story of that person that they loved and who is gone, I don’t ever want death to happen!

    Oh, I agree. And yet... we can't tell that story, in that way, until we know how and where it ends. And in telling such stories, we understand that some day, our story will be told in the same way. But not by us.

    (There's some annoyingly convincing literary theory along these lines, mostly by Frenchmen: ' La finitude, it sucks, sans doute, but without it we are nothing, etc...')

    So my ‘people who are allowed to die’ list is vanishingly small. It’s, like, Hitler and Stalin and Michael Vick.

    The latter of whom, weirdly, just blew through our town on an 'atonement' jaunt, to a mixed hero's welcome plus massive scepticism. Maybe Pol Pot could keep his seat warm for him.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1431 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to BenWilson,

    After my mother died, in one of the days before we finally left to go to our individual homes, my sister-in-law came and said "I dreamed of your mother last night!" She was elated. She'd seen Mum and my grandma, sitting in Kensington, having afternoon tea. (Mum was planning a trip away when she died.)

    I remember looking at her in total dismay, feeling so jealous.

    (I didn't dream of Mum for years, and then, when I did, they were very matter-of-fact, mundane conversations. But in my inner ear, I can still remember her voice, although it's many, many years since she died.)

    Dad's cousin came up to me after his funeral (both parents died within two years of each other) and said she'd seen him standing behind his coffin. At that stage, all I could do was look blankly at her. I think I was a bit crazy when he died, as there'd been anger and recriminations surrounding it all.

    But I see Dad all the time. He drives past in various cars. He passes me in the street. It's just something that happens. I don't worry about it.

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • sally jones, in reply to Jacqui Dunn,

    He passes me in the street. It’s just something that happens. I don’t worry about it.

    I'm glad you don't worry...

    My father was a Kingfisher watching over me from the exact same spot on a wire every afternoon when I was busting a gut rushing to finish my thesis.
    He would have been a Kingfisher had he been a bird, I thought.

    At the time I was quite prepared to believe this, though my father had been dead several years.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2010 • 179 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I never talk about it here, really, but I'm spooky. Just so you know. It's why I don't find death horrifying, or talk of dead people sitting in a room unnerving. Megan's right, Emma. Keep talking to your Mum. She won't talk back straightaway, but if you listen really carefully, she will talk back.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • JLM,

    Thank you so much for letting us know her, Emma. You inherited more from your mother than her great legs.

    Judy Martin's southern sl… • Since Apr 2007 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    I'm spooky

    a bit secret service

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Sacha,

    you could say that

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    People have been asking to see the infamous Swimsuit Photo. So here it is.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4378 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    mum's the word, in more ways than one

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie,

    It's like I carry your death around inside me, and it is so heavy. Don't worry, it's not like I'm sad all the time, or I cry, or I think about it all the time. I'm just always aware of it. I'm still working out how to live my life carrying it.

    So damn true. Thank you for putting words to the music.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    Oh Emma,
    I started reading your post at work this arvo, thinking 'Great, long time since I've read something from Emma' but I only got about 3 sentences in before I realised I couldn't go on without tears streaming down my cheeks. (Not a good look for a 50-something cynic).
    So here I am at home in the evening, with tears streaming down my cheeks and wanting to send you another of those woefully inadequate virtual hugs that do nothing to diminish the sense of loss but help to shave away a little of the pain.

    So many others have earlier expressed, far more eloquently than I could, the sentiments and support that I would like to whisper gently in your ear as I recall the deaths of my father and mother (separately and several years apart, but your wonderful piece has tapped a lot of the suppressed emotion) and our lovely dog Jake who had to be put to sleep just a month ago.

    But the existence and immutable inevitability of death is what gives us life, so be sure to honour your darling Mum by living your life as fully as you can.

    You have touched my heart.

    Arohanui.

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 572 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    The human condition. Nothing like the honesty of it to connect us all.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    I cannot write eloquently about the death of those I love: it just hurts too much.

    Emma, your wonderful paean for your mother - because it is a triumph song and a praise chant- moved me beyond glib words. It moved me into that dark place I never want to be in - because I'd much sooner be extinct than have my mother predecease me-

    but Mary has already had one of of her children die, and her parents, and both her brothers, her 1st (my father, when she was 31) and 2nd(whom all her children hated, and who she divorced at 70) husbands, and most of her cousins - my wish is both selfish & stupid.

    So after finishing with the taki-aue bit, I reread what you have so beautifully, cogently, heart-piercingly written, and onsent it to various family. It will well-serve, in the (I hope distant) future.

    I dont do hugs, even cyber ones but - arohanui mai na- n/n Keri

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Craig, you come from a very different perspective: grief, for me & mine, is not at all healthy – to the contrary, it kills.

    What I deeply appreciate about this ongoing thread is the different perspectives all of us mortal humans have, so please dont see this comment as any kind of attack.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Islander,

    Oh, not at all.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    Deepest sympathies Emma, and thank you for introducing us to your mother.
    Im glad you were able even to just sit with her as death approached. And prepare in some way for the inevitable.

    Something we as children did not have the privilege of doing.
    All we got at my mothers sudden demise was a young cop sitting rather impatiently to call the ambulance to take away the corpse.
    (Perhaps his dinner was getting cold) oops was that bitter and cynical... sorry.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1239 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Thank you, everyone, for your very kind words.

    Im glad you were able even to just sit with her as death approached. And prepare in some way for the inevitable.

    This was the up side of the cancer (not, possibly, a sentence that's been used very often). Mum had time to come to terms with her approaching death and start to prepare, and so did we. She'd been up to the hospice while she was still well and decided that she was perfectly happy to go up there when the time came. That was immense for us, because by the time we got to there... my mother was largely gone. She started to go mentally. She was very easily confused, panicky, occasionally she lashed out. From that point, things were very simple for me. Not so much for one of my brothers.

    But then we had a couple of weeks where she would get a little better, and we started to think about how long this could drag on, this up and down. We've been having huge problems with our daughter, and I was trying to be a mother and a daughter at the same time, in two different cities. So, yeah, it was difficult, too.

    And yes. She'd outlived her parents, her sister, two husbands, the rest of her generation. She took her last curtain call in October, in Who Wants to Be a Hundred? I'm grateful she didn't live too long after she could no longer learn her lines, because that wasn't a life she would have wanted to live.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4378 posts Report Reply

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