mortality tagged posts

Loss in the Tribe

A Saturday night of edenic silence in the early dark of fall, the season’s first halting, feathery rain seeming to muffle every sound save for the second-by-second tick of the clock hand on the kitchen wall, reminding that this quietude, so reminiscent of the timeless heavens, is itself bound and must stake its own claim for whatever eternity it can muster. I can hear neither car nor cricket nor neighbor near or far; even the refrigerator is joined in the solemnity of this hour, its motor soundless and bowed. Dog to the left of me, cat to the right, our threesome forming an obtuse triangle punctuated only by the silent rising and falling of torsos, accepting without rancor the insistent, intrusive breath that moves the world...

Read More

Onwards to 2016 With “Gratitude” for Oliver Sacks

Every passing year sees the passing of more people from our lives. Whether from death, ruptured or merely faded relationship, or the loss of the person we once knew because dementia has robbed him or her of that cherished personhood, we come to the final days of a year and amid our looks back, as joyous as some of them might be, we are also reminded of loss.

As an additional reminder, news programs highlight the more prominent people who have died, displaying a list of names and faces as the year’s final credits roll.

Among those names this year, and prominent indeed on my list: Oliver Sacks.

Author of startlingly original works such as Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Sacks was a neurologist, professor, writer, thinker, ruminator, and possessor of endless curiosity and a puckish humor...

Read More

Catapulted Back to Life: A Thanks Giving

It has been exactly 19,531 days since I flew through the air across a motel pool, did a flip and landed on the concrete, fracturing my skull, losing most all that day from my memory, and getting rushed to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles by my frantic parents, my dad driving and my mom slapping me across the cheek to try to keep me awake while en route.

Those slaps are one of the only two images that managed to stay with me of that day. The other is of walking through an alley on the way home, my late and beloved brother by my side, coaxing me along as I sniffled in a semi-daze, miserable as can be.

I don’t know whether my mom’s slaps managed to keep me awake till arriving at the emergency room, but once I did go out I stayed that way for some 36 hours, until well into the next evening, when I awakened unknowing where I was or what had happened.

When I tried to sit up and move to investigate, I discov...

Read More

Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto

Thirty years ago, the scientist, physician and essayist Lewis Thomas published an essay, Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, that concluded his best-selling book by the same name. Just like Mahler’s symphony, the brief (1,200-word) essay had a haunting, luminous quality. The difference was that Thomas juxtaposed Mahler’s themes of human mortality and its attendant melancholy with the sustained buildup of nuclear arms through the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.

Facing personal mortality can of itself entail a kind of somber acceptance and beauty, Thomas suggested, especially when conveyed with the profundity of a great composer writing for an orchestra...

Read More