All posts tagged: Death

Taking Care of the Strongest Man I Ever Knew

  My father asked me, “How long does it take?” I felt all the sound, light, air — everything — leave the room; only the weight of those words remained. I was standing at the side of his bed, lightly stroking his forehead. Mom was exhausted, slumped in a chair in a dark corner. He was dying and wanted to know when it would be over. He had seen so much life and death on the farm — animal life and death — for 40 years, he knew when death was near and he was ready for it. But for him to ask me… that took me a minute. I was the youngest and a girl. You didn’t reveal this kind of vulnerability to your youngest daughter. Four months earlier, I’d come home for a visit and it had been clear to me: Dad was not going to make it. It was upsetting to see him so much thinner and weaker than just a month ago. It was before the dialysis. Before the hospitalization. That January afternoon, he …

Their Father’s Daughters: Four Sisters Come Together to Say Goodbye

Deborah – last on the right – with her three sisters. (Photo courtesy Deb Copaken) I am the eldest of four girls, a number that felt ever-so-slightly obscene. Like, couldn’t we have stopped at three? But no, we couldn’t, because numbers 3 and 4 were identical twins. Prior to their conception, Mom had read an article about how to conceive a boy. She followed it to the letter: eat this; do that; have sex at this time of the month; stand on your head and clap three times, chant a Tibetan prayer, who knows what it said? I never read it. But I have always wondered how many other babies born in 1972 have that article to thank for either their twins or their vaginas. Each sister, in our own time, were supposed to have been named Jeffrey Scott. Instead we were Deborah Elizabeth, Jennifer Robin, Laura Suzanne, and Julie Michelle. We literally used up all the innocuous girl names. When my eldest was born, 21 years ago, my dad rushed into the hospital room to …

Sunflowers for Merrie: Choosing an Afterlife Avatar

It was Merrie’s birthday last week, her 56th, if she had lived to celebrate it. Merrie was … oh it’s impossible to say who Merrie was to me: one of my oldest and closest friends doesn’t quite do it. Nor do any of these: the willowy blonde architecture student who wore red clogs; the mother of two beautiful boys of whom she was insanely proud; a woman who had the most strikingly singular personal style, who didn’t turn it off even for our Wednesday trips to Yale for her chemo treatments. I was a freelance writer during Merrie’s last year of life and was free to drive her to the hospital for a year’s worth of Wednesdays. She wouldn’t be ready when I arrived, so I’d sit at the edge of her bed and watch her chose an outfit, trying to stave off my anxiety about being late — she’d lose her slot if I didn’t get her there on time. Merrie, for all her wondrousness, was late for most things, including the potentially life-saving …

TueNight letter Jennifer Bensko Ha

A Friendship Kept Alive Through Letters

The first time I saw Jim, I immediately noticed his height. He was so tall that his head cleared the dark, dusty cabinets in the Schermerhorn building. Bright blue eyes, and long limbs, he had been an elite fencer and he moved quickly and energetically. We were both in a beginning Finnish class at Columbia in the mid ’80s. It was a morning class, and the five of us in it would wait outside with our to-go coffees and make small talk. After class, Jim and I walked to our dorms together, becoming friends slowly, but I really got to know him when he began writing me notes. He’d leave them under my door, or send them through campus mail. “Do you want to study later? Go for a walk? Get coffee?” Back then, there really was no other way to reach someone other than by phone or by note. No Internet, no cell phones, no email, no social media. Telephones were wall mounted in hallways, so privacy was limited. Sometimes I’d miss him, sometimes not, but we’d see …

Late Night Snack: “Loss” — Our Very First Podcast

Well it’s appropriately and officially “Late Night” (almost midnight, here on the East Coast) and we’re posting our very first podcast. Back in October when we had professional actors read some of our stories aloud at our TueNight birthday party, we realized how fun it was to hear our words aloud. And, since we Google Hangout (amongst ourselves) each week to plan upcoming issues, we thought we’d also share a bit of that behind the scenes with you, dear reader. So HERE. WE. GO! This week: We discuss this week’s theme and our own forms of “Loss” — from loved ones to cats to heck, virginity. We read an excerpt from Wendy Goldman Scherer’s piece, “The Inlaws: The Collateral Damage of Divorce“ Rebecca Soffer, co-founder of Modern Loss talks about her own grief, and why she started a site all about loss. Have a listen, and please tell us what you think in the comments below. Production Notes: Adrianna Dufay did an amazing job producing this whole shebang. Much love friend. Special thanks this week to Ben Patterson, from HeresTheThing.com for the mic loan and more. …

10 Years After Losing Twins, A Mother Reflects

I was almost six months pregnant with twin boys after undergoing IVF when, at a routine anatomy ultrasound, we discovered one twin had died, and shortly after we got the rest of the bad news. I was suffering from preeclampsia, a severe case, and I had to be admitted to the hospital immediately. Twelve hours after I was admitted, the doctors surrounded my bed and told me that I was going to die unless the pregnancy was terminated. Either my son and I could both die, or I would just lose my son. It was the worst day of my life. After I came home from the hospital I disappeared into grief. For three weeks I lay on my couch, watching reruns of the vampire show Angel, and listlessly eating junk food. I spent most of my time in the gray of loneliness, a hand on my empty belly, feeling terribly lost. I remember handing out Halloween candy to the neighbor’s kids while silent tears ran down my face. I remember occasionally swimming out of …

Close to Death: From My Hospital Bed, I Could Hear Her Dying

Someone was wailing. I pawed through the bed sheets for my 3-month-old son, but I couldn’t find him. Everything felt hot and damp from my leaking breast milk. I heard the cries again. Oooooh! I kept trying to peel back the twisted linen. And then, Mercy! Mercy! This was not my son bellowing. Instead of his fuzzy head I found a giant call button. Then my eyes made out the lopsided fruit basket and plastic pink water pitcher. I tried to sit up, but got caught. There were wires snaking out of my gown and I smelled like a sour armpit. The past 24 hours leached slowly back into my brain. I was 40, had just given birth to my third child, and was training for a half-marathon when a night of “bad indigestion” turned out to be a heart attack. Instead of picking up my older kids from the playground after school, I’d found myself on a metal table, gazing up as a handsome Italian doctor stented one of my coronary arteries and chatted …