A Death Moratorium

In the last two years I’ve lost people I know, some more intimately than others. It had been difficult moving from grieving to feeling grateful to be alive and able to enjoy a birthday cake with my daughter or bond with my son while making a vegetarian meal.

For awhile, there was not a day I woke up without thinking about my friend Valerie who died in August 2020, two days before her birthday, our dear Alex who passed away suddenly in January 2021, just a week or two after we FaceTimed with him, and then a few weeks later, my Mango Tribe sister Ann, for whom eloquent tributes have been written that I could not read without bawling, and so I stopped. Then, my sister-in-law Techy, my Facebook friend; we weren’t close but I know she was also loved dearly. My beloved Aunt Belen from COVID in September 2021. She was my second mom, and our family has not recovered from her sudden death. My friend and martial arts guru Chris from a stroke in April 2021, while I was at the airport in Mexico waiting for my flight back to Chicago. Even my favorite frenemy Jeni T, much loved by some and avoided by others for her feisty and judgy nature. Most of them were too young to have been taken, four were fierce women with children left motherless. All of them full of life and love for others.

And then there are the faceless 400K in U.S. alone… mass shootings, senseless gun violence in Chicago… It is difficult not to live in fear that I might lose another human. Come to think of it, I have always had paranoia about losing loved ones ever since I was a self-absorbed teenager. I’m not sure why. Could be a movie or movies I saw. Love Story? Bobby Deerfield? Tagalog tearjerkers? When I was a little girl, I saw my dad die on television, and I cried so hard even though my mother kept reassuring me that it was not true. He’s right there on the sofa! He hugged me tight to prove he was still alive, while I struggled, pummeled him with my puny fists, made him promise to never die again. He did, anyway, in 2009. And then, my extraordinary mother followed, 9 years later.

Now I feel like I’m constantly trying to distract myself from falling into a grief hole and staying there.

I watch mindless movies. I hug and kiss my little doggy. Text heart and smiley face emojis to close friends. Like and love posts. Raise fist emojis to causes I believe in, go to rallies, teach, sing, drink, shop, travel, eat out, clean the house, wipe sticky substance from the fridge door handle left by a son with such a mutant power. All this to keep me from imagining my wrists slashed, the cuts vertical, the flesh raw and bloodless as if I’m already dead.

I think about death and dying a lot while living. I want to say, shhh –be quiet. Be grateful. Stop. I kiss my husband’s lips passionately as if his breath is gold in my mouth because it is. It kills me to think about the five spoons of sugar he put in his coffee, the T-bone steak he ordered at the diner, the stresses he has at work, the kids not knowing their boundaries with him because he never established any. It kills me. I am dead already. But I don’t want to die. Not really. I’ve spent too much on healthcare to just stop wanting to live.

Thank goddess for Wellbutrin, therapy, close friends who check in, some dealing with great losses themselves. And although I am not as brave as I would have loved to be, I am also not weak. I only wish for a moratorium on all the death and dying for now please.

I think about all this as I get ready to go get my mammogram done this morning. Wish me well.

About filinthegap

Lani T. Montreal is an educator, writer, performer, and community activist. Her writings have been published and produced in Canada, the U.S., the Philippines and in cyberspace. Among her plays are: Panther in the Sky, Gift of Tongue, Looking for Darna, Alien Citizen, Grandmother and I, and her most-toured comedy drama about gender and immigration, titled Sister OutLaw. She is the recipient of the 2015 3Arts Djerassi Residency Fellowship for Playwriting, 2008 3Arts Ragdale Residency Fellowship, the 2001 Samuel Ostrowsky Award for her memoir “Summer Rain,” and was finalist for the 1995 JVO Philippine Award for Excellence in Journalism for her environmental expose “Poison in the River.” Lani holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Roosevelt University. She teaches writing at Malcolm X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago and writes a blog called “Fil-in-the-gap”. (filinthegap.com.) She lives (and loves) in Albany Park, Chicago with her multi-species, multi-cultural family.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s