It would be my father’s 90th birthday today, and today is the second anniversary of my mother’s death, exactly one month after my father’s.
The story of taking care of them, of being my parent’s child is one that I seem to be unable to share. I haven’t found a way to make it accessible, easy for other people to engage, because, in the end, it is about death.
In the movie “Take Care,” her two year experience of taking care of him through cancer isn’t on display, rather it only exists as a dark shadow to the accessible experience of her healing from orthopaedic injuries suffered in a car accident. There is a clear expectation of a happy ending.
I was thrown out of a caregivers support group because I was too clear on what the inevitable ending is in life. My challenges were just deemed too hard, even for professionals and others facing the same challenge. Imagine how hard they are to convey to people who don’t feel any need to see.
Death and rebirth thread through my life. You cannot understand transgender emergence without engaging death and rebirth, even if that whole understanding is distasteful and repugnant to most. Everybody wants to go to heaven, you see, but nobody wants to die.
My own experience of taking care of my parents for a decade was one of death, slow inevitable death and breaking moments of death where my heart broke again and I had to go on. I had to find solace and joy everyday.
“Sure, we are all born to suffer and die, but before you go, try the pâtè. It’s wonderful!”
I wrote when I was 17. Even then, I understood. Everyday death, everyday suffering, everyday wonder. Thank you, God.
Death is always the prelude to rebirth, though not always in a form that makes any sense to us. I remember a tarot reader expressing confusion to the legendary Rachel Pollack about why she got a positive reading for a person who was close to death. I suggested to Rachel that the reason might be that physical death would lead to something good that we cannot imagine. She agreed. None of us knows what comes after physical death, but that just means that none of us knows what comes after physical death. No one knows.
Engaging the process of death and rebirth, of shedding and becoming new is vital to me. There is no room for new life without new death, for it is the junk we hold onto which keeps us from being reborn. Doubt is the knife that opens the space for life.
I’m not really surprised that I have trouble finding people to engage my story, as laced as it is with death, but I’m not really happy about it, either. It is very wearing, especially over the long, long, longer term.
“Sometimes I think that the artistic life is a long, lovely suicide and I am not sorry that it is so.”
— Oscar Wilde, letter to Harry Marillier
To be creative without death is impossible.
The question is never, ever if death is required. It always is.
The question, rather, is if rebirth is possible one more time.
On this day, for my parents, it wasn’t. Bless their souls.