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I've been sharing thoughts about my mother's death online (apologies to those not on Facebook - if you want to see my previous posts, here's the first, and here's the second; perhaps I should post them here, too, but I've been distracted). People have written some of the kindest things I've ever had said to me. Last night, all the students from one of my classes got together on a sympathy card, and one of them made me a batch of delicious gluten-free chocolate-oatmeal balls. I appreciate these things more than I can express. Tomorrow is the funeral, in Omaha.

It seems that only when people are kind like that I actually cry, when I feel the pain wash through me, heavy and drowning, dragging me out to sea like an undertow I wasn't aware existed just beyond this calm beach. This crush happens not when I'm alone and thinking about Mom's death, or writing about my feelings, or playing through sad or difficult or happy memories (yes, we had those, too), but when people are kind to me about it. We really lost Mom years ago, during the ungentle decline and destruction of her self that we call, in clean clinical terminology, Alzheimer's, but which in reality is the most brutally destructive event I can imagine, the utter desolation of a person while they're still alive, a meat-grinder of the mind, unemotional gears inexorably crushing all that is a person between the flat surfaces of the machinery, irrevocably tearing through memories and thoughts and the very framework of who we are between sharp steel teeth, hungry, mindless entropy, plaques and proteins and poisons dissolving our past and the people we love from the unique universe of mind that is all we know, that universe shrinking in vast swaths as the information is forever lost, not just like into a black hole, because there the energy still exists, it's contained and stored and available to anyone with sufficiently advanced technology willing to venture beyond the blue event horizon. But no, this is destruction, worse than entropy, utter anarchy and loss and murder, is worse than that, this enfeeblement, it's a disk-grinder polishing minds to a dull featureless gloss, and the machine's operator has no brain, it's a robot - not malevolent like SkyNet or even Saberhagen's Berserkers, but like the physics of half-life decay, the biology of cell putrefaction, apoptosis, erosion, matter-antimatter annihilation, brown-dwarf stars cooling for a billion years alone in the vastness of space, soil blowing in the wind, dry air gradually leaching away its essence and nutrients and moisture and transforming it into toxic shards that suck life when it lands instead of feeding plants as when it took flight.

The machinations of the conscious or subconscious mind are endlessly confusing and fascinating. I've always had faith in the basic laws of physics, that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, and yet, and yet – look at our minds, look at the mental cosmos we construct throughout our lives, the sense we make of others' worlds, and how all that in time is lost into the emptiness, forever, unrecoverable. The human mind is a wonder, capable not only of transforming vast quantities of sensory input into models of the physical world, but then even more incredibly capable of communicating with others. New universes are born with each new mind, simple at first, but they quickly expand and grow more complex and begin almost immediately to blend with others tangential to the borders of our own.

Alzheimer's, malevolent force, destroyer of worlds, eater of universes, accelerates the entropy of the mind leading to utter desolation, first extracting all other people's universes from reality, then you from your own world, then you from everyone else's. Veni, vidi, vici. Entire universes, people, stories of who we are and were, destroyed and never to be recovered again, all traces impossibly erased from reality. How can that be? How can a disease consume all that information? But it does, and everything is lost in the belly of the universe-eater, never to be shat out. The only evidence of the crime is a pile of broken connections to the outside, all the rest of us reeling in frayed ends in an effort to remember who they once touched, where they were once moored to another's world before that person was pulled beneath the waves.

Every person we know will be destroyed in time – time, this feeble attempt to construct a sensible explanation for loss. They will be gone, there is no hope for them to be recovered. The same is true for our own bubble. This is the reality of the universe, and something we cannot answer, only seek to come to terms with.

Trying to understand what it means is a hopeless effort, yet it's all that matters. Asking questions, seeking answers, striving to explore within and then beyond the confines of our bubble-universes: This is all that really matters. This is why I got into writing in the first place, and why I am driven to continue doing so. To understand the glories of matter coming to understand itself, of the universe waking up, opening a billion tiny eyes if only for a brief moment to see other eyes also looking around, and sharing what we have learned, and asking what the others have learned, and then building a greater understanding of it all, flawed and limited as it may be, often incompatible with what the others report. Because everything else is only the void.
If ever I figure out human nature, I can write my last words, but I don't fear that'll ever happen.



Thank you to everyone who has said kind and thoughtful things; I really do appreciate it, and if it brought on the tears, then it served a useful purpose, too. To everyone suffering your own tragedies and losses, my heart goes out to you, and I understand, and I hope my sharing here is more helpful than hurtful. We are all fighting our own hard battles, and though we might succeed for a time, loss will ultimately consume us all. So be kind, and understanding, and try to build the most glorious temple to life that you can in the moments your universe intersects with those constructed by others.

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Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
pointoforigin
Oct. 10th, 2014 10:09 pm (UTC)
Dear Chris, I'm so sorry. I understand very well what you're going through, and I'm grateful to you for describing it so well. Sometimes it helps to hear my pain mirrored in the voice of another. You have a gift for writing that holds and preserves the flickering candleflame of a human emotion, keeping it alive long enough to be honored and cherished before it blinks out unnoticed. I'm having a mental image of our creativity as the vast and dim temple, into which we all walk, carrying our own one flame. Together we make a light. I am cherishing yours today, my friend.
mckitterick
Oct. 10th, 2014 10:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you, and I have so much fondness for getting to share our universes.
nottygypsy
Oct. 11th, 2014 01:47 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry Chris. Love to you.
mckitterick
Oct. 11th, 2014 03:48 am (UTC)
Thank you, Notty.
apocalypticbob
Oct. 11th, 2014 02:07 am (UTC)
I am so very sorry for your loss. I lost my mother in 2012, which seems like both yesterday and a lifetime ago simultaneously.

My hope for you is that you recall the good memories more frequently, and that you don't linger on the bad ones. That's hard, especially if your relationship was complicated (which I very much understand). Not saying forget, because that's unrealistic and foolish, but hoping that they aren't overly burdensome. The passing of a family member that you have a tumultuous relationship with is fraught with mixed emotions. The finality of everything, for good or ill.

Thinking of you as you process.
mckitterick
Oct. 11th, 2014 03:51 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing your experience; I imagine losing a parent is never easy, or simple, or concluded.
sherwood21
Oct. 11th, 2014 04:00 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry for your loss.
mckitterick
Oct. 11th, 2014 04:05 am (UTC)
Thank you.
garyomaha
Oct. 11th, 2014 01:25 pm (UTC)
Chris, I'm sorry for your loss. I'm just now getting caught up on some FB and LJ posts.

I would have liked to say "hi" to you while you're in Omaha but, EXTREMELY coincidentally, a life-long friend of mine is in the area for...a memorial for his mother who recently died of the ravages of Alzheimer's. Their family had moved away but has many friends around here, so a local memorial service is being held. I haven't seen this friend (whom I've known since kindergarten!) for awhile, so it'll be good to get together, except for the circumstances.

Please enjoy some family time when you're here. Someday, somewhere, we'll meet in person!
mckitterick
Oct. 11th, 2014 02:14 pm (UTC)
What an awful coincidence - but I hope your visit is a good one. Yes, I look forward to meeting in person after all these years of LJing together.
the_themiscyran
Oct. 14th, 2014 07:22 pm (UTC)
So sorry for your loss, Chris.
mckitterick
Oct. 14th, 2014 07:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Laura.
angelmaye
Oct. 16th, 2014 12:29 am (UTC)
I am so sorry for your loss. I understand what it's like to say goodbye to someone who you have missed for years. I hope you find a bit of peace.

Andi
mckitterick
Oct. 16th, 2014 01:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you, and that's exactly it. I appreciate the kind and thoughtful words.
msmitti
Oct. 18th, 2014 06:12 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry for your loss. I'd hesitated to say anything after reading the first two posts because I handled my mom's death so much differently than you have done. Not to say this experience isn't hard for you, but you seem to be processing so well and sharing through your verbal imagery. I wish you peace and healing.
mckitterick
Oct. 19th, 2014 08:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks, msmitti. Hugs.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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