Monday, August 20, 2012

A Little More Rain Fell

Sharp eyed readers will have noticed that it's been a tad dark in DaveLand over the last week or two. Several people have written to both express concern and to offer support. I'm blessed. Though it's still tough, I realize that all it would take is a slight breeze to shift the storm clouds hold up, resolutely, over my head. In the midst of that, today, we got some news - not a breeze but more rain.

It's tough to report here, because this is not the kind of thing easily spoken about. Someone we know died today. Not a friend. Not even someone we liked. An acquaintance of a friend. He died alone. Unloved. Unliked. He systematically drove away family and friends. What fellowship he had was with those who worked in his office - where he was finally fired for abusing his power over his staff. He went to restaurants, tipped well, for the privilege of hurling insults at waiters and tantruming over service. He was harsh and bitter and angry. On the few times I met him, I left, always, feeling a sense of relief that I'd survived the interchange.

The news of his death was met, by all we know who knew him, with relief. Relief that his mean spirit been set free, relief that their guilt for not visiting was over. None visited him because all feared him. He tore strips off people at the slightest provocation. He wanted visitors, not to visit, but to practise his aim. And his aim was good. He'd lashed out and hurt people as far back as anyone can remember. None can remember far because no one stayed long in his range.

And he died.




Most people we've talked to say "Maybe he's happy now."

I admit. I loathed the man. I loathed how his abused the power he had. I loathed how he hurt people willingly and purposefully. I loathed how he made a sport out of inflicting pain. I did. I do. I can't lie.

A woman, I loved, once told me before she passed away, that she wanted to be remembered for the life she lived and for the personality she had. She didn't want to become the generic dead, "had a kind word for everyone" "would give you the shirt off her back" "made everyone smile" "everyone who knew her loved her". She didn't want death to take the life she lived uniquely and individually, the life that she had made completely her own, and make it an unreal generic life. She wanted to be remembered for her passions, for her temper, for her vision, for her mistakes, for her triumphs, for the bitch on heels that she could be, for the passionate woman and mother that she was. She wanted, in the parlance of today's services, a 'person centered' death ... and she wanted people to have 'person centered' memories. I so agree with her.

I can't say, now, the bland lies that we tell of the lives of those who have died.

I can't mourn a pretend life not actually lived.

He was a mean, spiteful, hurtful man.

And he died.

One person I talked to today about him said, "He pushed people away, he got the death he deserved."

I don't know that I can think that anyone deserves to die alone and unloved and unliked. No one. I don't sit here writing this feeling guilt that I never visited him. I didn't know him, didn't even really know he was that sick. He was on the periphery of my life.

A few years ago I saw an odd picture of this man. He'd gone to the cemetery where he would be buried. He'd hired a photographer to take pictures of him there. Standing above the place where he would lay. He wanted to see it. I'd seen, through an odd series of happenstances, a couple shots. One showed him standing looking down at the ground, him in shadow, the sun's weak rays lit the ground before him. Warming it.

In shadow, I couldn't see the expression on his face.

I'm told he was crying.

I don't even want to guess why.

It would hurt too much.


Anonymous said...

What a sad story. I must admit - my heart went out to the man - abusive or not. What a lonely life he must have had - which of course would make him more bitter, angry and afraid to be hurt - which pushed people away - which made him lonely. Oh - I know it is not simpistic. The wake he left of hurt seems titanic - but still, such a lost soul.

Your report of the photos is extremely sad. A man who feared death? A man who felt if he faced death could bully even that into submission? How very sad.

Oh may we all live a life that was worth living - be the best person we can be in whatever state we are in. Perhaps then this sad tale can have a good ending. Perhaps this man can do more good with his passing than his living. Let's hope so.

Anonymous said...

Very sad. Sounds like my granddad, who died last year at the ripe old age of 84. He was a man of brilliant intelligence and at times great humour... but he drove everyone away with his persistently hurtful comments, sense of superiority and explosive temper. When he died, I think everyone had a sense of relief - though we all had sincerely wanted to love him. It saddened me that a person can throw all the good things in life away like that. But - if nothing else, it can remind us that are still alive about the things in life that truly matter.

Baba Yaga said...

Mmm. Sometimes the point of your stories is immediately apparent, sometimes there's more of a sense of something settling in, waiting to be recognised... This feels like the latter sort. You really do have a gift for story-telling.

Wish you pleasant breezes to dispel the clouds.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,
the only thing I can tell about this story is: it hurts - it hurts reading it, it hurts thinking about it, it hurts inside my tummy.....

- right now I am reading a very good book "the fault in our stars" by John Green

- right now I am in a Rehab clinic because my lungs are gettin weaker. Here a situation occured which with everybody feels uncomfortable in one way or another. What would you do? :
Last week a woman arrived in the clinic with "an odd face" (I dont know how to say it elsewise). She seems to have some sort of skin cancer and half her face is bigger an kind of hanging like a mask. And I was so scared that she wohld get the empzy place at my dinner table. Because her face scared me and made me feel very uncomfortable. Like in a nightmare. Some other people even refused to sit with her at a table.
I felt so guIlty because I was relieved she did not sit at my table, I felt so guilty, because I thought that anytime something can happen and I could start looking "odd" - some years ago I had very very bad acne and that was hurtfull for me too.
I am talking normal to her when meeting her around. But I have nightmares and get scared. Thats so crazy.
Dave, what to do???


Anonymous said...

O my God! O Thou forgiver of sins, bestower of gifts, dispeller of afflictions!

Verily, I beseech Thee to forgive the sins of such as have abandoned the physical garment and have ascended to the spiritual world.

O my Lord! Purify them from trespasses, dispel their sorrows, and change their darkness into light. Cause them to enter the garden of happiness, cleanse them with the most pure water, and grant them to behold Thy splendors on the loftiest mount.

- 'Abdu'l-Bahá

Maggie said...

Part of the sadness we feel, I think, is when we imagine how WE would feel if this were OUR story. But what if it isn't?

A hospice patient I worked with was curmudgeonly and difficult. I, too, found him challenging and I, too, transferred away after a short time. But I remember something he said.

He told me that he hated being fussed over, taken care of, assisted. He hated his helplessness, he hated his body (and always had, he said, it never felt like a pleasure to live in, not even when he was a successful professional athlete), he was glad to be getting ready to leave this life. He was irritated that it was taking so long to die.

He said the part of the day he liked best was when the last "damned do-gooding busybody" had left and he could sit alone in his own house and be left in peace.

Hoping the clouds lift some today.

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

How terribly sad, to leave this life alone and unloved and to have the news of your death bring relief to those who hear of it.

I wonder at the "why" behind a life lived this way? As in, what's the purpose of it, in the larger scheme of things?

I believe that we map out our lives long before we get here - that we know who we will be, what lessons we need to learn and who we will teach/affect while we're here.

I hope that this man, in his passing, is comforted now, knowing that his journey was so difficult and his tasks were hard ones, too.

Liz Miller said...

Someone I loathed died recently and I said, "I grieve for the loss his loved ones are feeling".

What can one say when there are no loved ones?

Perhaps, "I grieve for the loss of the loves he could have had. I grieve for him that he pushedlove away while there was still life to live."

Shan said...

Well, if he really liked lashing out at other people, I guess he had the life he wanted and I must assume he had the death he wanted. Maybe he's quite pleased at the way everything turned out.

I think people watch too many made-for-TV movies where Scrooge-types learn the meaning of Christmas or whatever. That's what I take away from your friend, Dave, who said she didn't want to be "everyone who knew her loved her"...people are damned mealy-mouthed and love to cluck and shake their heads and say platitudes and feel sorry for others. Whereas the "others" are just another type of person, and would probably cringe with revulsion at being retrospectively softened by people who don't understand them. Scrape away the crusty exterior on people, you'll sometimes find a crusty interior. No pity necessary.

It takes all kinds to make up a world, and there's naught queer as folk...those are my platitudes!

Beth said...

My paternal grandmother may die this way. It's hard there in that she has a disease that may well have affected her personality, way of thinking, etc. But I have a disease that's definitely done that and even if it did change me to be like that (it didn't), I'd consider it my responsibility to re-learn how to treat people. Anyway, we can't know because no one remembers what she was like before. Nothing means she couldn't be a horrible person that happens to be sick.

It's a hard thing in the family because my mother is very close to hers and thinks my father ought to be, too. It's a point of contention. I don't think it's anyone's responsibility to have a personal relationship with any other adult. Anyone who tries to help her or be friendly with her, my grandmother soon pushes away, insults included. I can't say that I'll be glad when she dies, but I'll be relieved when this issue is over and I can't see how it will be so long as she lives.

FWIW, I haven't actually talked to her in years. I should have precious little if any contact with her. Hearing her talk lies about my parents is disturbing enough, but... she also says things that make no sense and is prone to contradicting herself, even within the same sentence. Two consequences of my condition are that I process information slower and that I can't ignore things. So when I'm listening to her, not only am I always behind, but I can't help but try to make sense of what she's saying, only that's very often impossible. My brain gets overloaded and I lose function (say, my first language) for at least a few hours. Fortunately, Mom no longer pressures me to talk to (or see) my grandmother. Good. She's actively harmful to my ability to function.

Rickismom said...

Recently my daughter Ricki passed away, and when people started saying general things, I tried as often as I could to propmt them to relate incidents:
-tell me something she did...
- how did you change as a result of having her in your life
-can you share any stories of time you spent with Ricki?

The results were very satisfying, and I recomend this to all.....

Belinda said...

Rickismom, my sincere condolences. I got to know Ricki through your blog, and shared some tiny parts of your journey, often with smiles at Ricki's ingenuity at outwitting those around her. I am so sorry to hear of your loss.

Anonymous said...

Julia - you are put in a hard situation. Can you try to put yourself in her situation? Do you think she doesn't know how she looks or the effect it has on others? Could you draw on your own experiences for strength? Surely from this blog we have heard how not to look on the outside - but rejoice on the inside. Don't feel guilty - try feeling something else. Feel better soon.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Shan on this one. When people are mean, hateful and nasty all their lives, the fact that they die alone is simply the reaping of what they have sown.

I can't bring myself to feel sorry for someone who has lived a life of active hatred and bullying and nastiness. I think it would be a waste of my energy, and a slap in the face to all those who endured his brutish behavior.

Let God sort that lot out, I say.


Purpletta said...

Would I Rather Be Wet or Dry? ...
Hi Dave, As always an inspiring and deep post. Thank you for what you share with us so openly, so deliberately, with such care... I did notice that it seemed things might have been a bit darker near you these days. I pray the storm lifts.
For me the rain has become a friend, a companion, truthfully a favorite. As a young girl when my Grandmother who had raised me died, we stood at the cemetery and it poured. Hard rain, deliberate rain, rain that really meant it, rain that cleansed and left a scent of spring. I felt tortured inside, torn apart, like things would never again be the same - and they weren't - but from the outside the rain washed me, held me...
When I was assaulted and didn't have anyone I felt I could talk to about it and felt a burning in my heart and my stomach, it was water that settled the fire. It was only in showering, inside or outside in the rain, that comforted me. It was only in water that I felt like it might be possible to be renewed someday, to be set free of what felt to be the damning action of him, his control over me. Only in the water was I free...
And as we travel it is not that the storm always bring good. It carried with it these memories of the rainwater I've felt, been cleansed with, loved by, even in the eye of the storm.
Dave, we carry with us our own trials, and those we feel even when not our own, as we share this common band of humanity. I hear in all of your posts your attachment through heartstrings with those you have taught, cared about, worked with, fought against injustice with. We are all connected to this man who died alone - we all live some of his experience or with his experience within us. As you live through your own dark days, and carry with you the dark days of many you have joined hands and hearts with, may the rain be a cleansing gift, a segway to the spring, may it carry with it a reminder of all the light you have brought to so many, the way you join heartstrings with all of us to walk through the darkness to the light. May the hug of the rain be a reassurance that the scent of spring is close at hand.
Thank you for being the gift you are

Kristine said...

I'm sorry that it's been rainy lately. As a Portlander and a Seattlite, I know how hard it is to believe in the sunshine when all you see is rain... But I also know that there's nothing better to make you appreciate the vitamin D when it comes!

Hope things are looking up for you.

GirlWithTheCane said...

I hope that the clouds lift soon for you, Dave. I go through those cloudy periods myself, and stories like this seem to stand out more for me during those times.

Do take good care of yourself.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Rickismom, I join Belinda in expressing my sorrow at your loss. I was taken by surprise and am in a bit of shock. I don't know you and never met either you or your daughter, but nonetheless, I feel for your loss. I never know what to say, I just hope you feel the love and support of this small blogger community.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Purpletta, that was simply beautiful, thank you. It did help. A lot.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I am sorry to hear that you are not feeling well, I hope the clouds lift soon.

Rickismom, I am so sorry to hear that your daughter has passed away. Please accept my condolences.

As for the man who was so nasty and mean to others - I am totally puzzled by this kind of behaviour. I believe that all human beings long for connection to others - some more than others it's true. Sometimes people are badly hurt and push others away. Sometimes the reason for this nastiness is not apparent. I think it is always sad when someone dies alone and unloved.