Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Time Heals

with 7 comments

So, I’m at that part of the week where I’m so tired I could just fall over, and I’ve got to get through today before I can just relax.

And I must admit that I admire the hell out of the restraint of some of the posters here, who did not jump all over Mab as to whether the list of things she said were “based on fact” actually were (I’d say half of them were, and half of them were interpretations.)

But Mab’s post proved my point, in a way–sitting half a world away, she’s heard of the crazy Republicans but not the crazy Democrats.  The people who say that the  Bush administration caused 9/11 on its own, that the  Bush administration was going to suspend the Constitution to make W. President for Life, that the  Bush administration was busy installing a “theocracy” on the United States via secret D.C. organizations that brainwashed Congressmen into a religious cult…

We used to call it “Bush derangement syndrome,” and Mique is surely right.  There are as many of those on the left as there are on the right. 

The difference is that MSNBC has not given any of the left wing nutjobs his own hour-long television show, that the partisan left shows (like, say, Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow) don’t give air time to these people, and so far none of the nuttiness seems to be emanating from the elected officials of the Democratic Party.

Which means that the public perception of who is actively crazy is different, and public perception is everything.

That said, and in spite of the fact that it’s the anniversary of 9/11–is there something wrong with me, that I don’t get caught up in anniversaries?  I didn’t even get caught up in my own–

Anyway, in spite of all that, something has been bugging me.

On the day we buried Joann,  I put a note to that effect up on Facebook.  I don’t think I understand Facebook ye, or I don’t use it right, or I just don’t have the time, or something.  But I put the note up there and then I went around and did stuff.

Some of the people who responded did so with some version of “this too shall pass.” 

I tend to have a lot of respect fo ancient wisdom, and this is very ancient wisdome indeed.  You can find it in the  Bible and in the pre-Socratic Greeks and in Shakespeare and on Hallmark cards.

But every time I hear it, it occurs to me that it isn’t actually true.

Or rather, that it’s only half true. 

It is certainly not the case that grief or even bad luck passes for everybody.   Some people simply undergo a series of really bad things and then die, nd I’ve known a few of those. 

It’s no use saying, either, that there is no such thing as “luck” or that we make our own, because we don’t, always.  Bill and Joann died from a type of cancer so rare that the number of cases in the US each year is in single digits and the number of cases worldwide isn’t large enoug, o coherent enough, to provide risk factors.  What’s more, they’re the only siblings on record with the disease.  It isn’t thought to have a genetic component.

Well, okay, everything has a genetic component.  But you know what I mean.

One of the things about the last few years with Joann was the way in which the course of her disease followed Bill’s so that I tended to have a clearer idea of what the doctors were saying than most of the people around her. 

And, of course, I couldn’t say anything about it.  The news was all bad, and I knew it, but I couldn’t say anything about it to my brother in law or my other sister in law or my mother in law.  I suppose doctors put things in the terms in which Joann’s doctors put them (and Bill’s) in order to give patients and their families hope, but once you hear the spiel you never forget it.   I knew it was all over but the shouting (and the pain, and the deterioration) when the doctors started talking about how they were going to treat this as a chronic condition and help Joann live with it.  There are actually cancers you can do that with, sometimes for decades at a time, but this is not one of them.

Aside from the obvious here–things did not get better in time for Joann, after all–I think I can sa with some certainty that things are not likely to get better in time for my mother in law.  She’s in her eighties.  She’s buried three of the four children she gave birth to.  She’s got diabetes among a dozen other ailments.  She’s not holding up.

The other thing that occurs to me is that, in the end, we all reach a point where things do not get better with time. 

Nothing is certain except death and taxes, the man said, but the important part of that observation is that death is certain.  No matter how many wounds it may heal along the way, time eventually plows us under

Maybe I’ll go look up Boethius’s Consolations of Philosophy if I can wok up the energey to shift through the piles in my office.

Or maybe I’ll just drink tea and watch Harry Potter movies until my eyes fall out.

Written by janeh

September 11th, 2009 at 6:04 am

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses to 'Time Heals'

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  1. They say we’re teaching doctors more about communications with patients and the family, but I sometimes thing it’s not all getting through. I’ve had a few recent experiences among my friends .. I’d written them out, but who needs details.

    Sometimes, in my limited experience, people don’t want to hear or perhaps discuss bad medical news. I’d want to know. Maybe I’d appreciate not having to discuss it all the time, but I’d want to know my exact prognosis. I’ve always dealt better with certainties, however awful, than uncertainties.

    Without religious faith, no, some things do not get better with time, except in the sense of a final release from pain. And that’s a victory for death. Most of us, unless we die young and unexpectedly, come to terms with that – or with the religious alternative, which for someone who really rather likes this life most of the time, isn’t always as much of a consolation as it should be. But it’s damn hard, either way. Especially when we’ve just had our noses rubbed into the transience of us and everyone who has made our lives worthwhile. For me, coming to terms with death is one of those things that has to be done over and over again, like forgiving someone who has badly hurt me. I expect only my own death will bring an end to the process.

    Time does heal, not in the sense of restoring what was, but in the sense of patching over the wound so life can go on. It never feels like that at the time, of course, and it is incomplete, a partial repair.

    And my absolute least favourites in the ‘well-meant condolences’ list are: ‘It’ll all be the same in a hundred years’ (yes, and I’ll be around to see it!) and ‘God never gives you more than you can bear’ (unprintable comments about what God thinks I can bear). References to deceased relatives as angels in heaven looking down on one can also be less comforting than the speaker thinks.

    So I don’t have anything really to add. Except to send you my sympathies again.


    11 Sep 09 at 7:12 am

  2. I think people just don’t know what to say, and almost everything isn’t what you want to hear. The only thing I wanted to hear was: I’m so sorry. Or some acknowledgement of the pain, without insisting they knew how I felt. It’s diminishing, somehow, when people tell you “time heals” or “this too shall pass.” It’s true in a way, for some people. Certainly I went from crying 10 times a day to 3 to none. But at the time you don’t want to hear that; accepting it would seem to be a dishonor to the emotion you’re feeling and dishonor the person you’re mourning.

    Not worth much, but I am sorry. I think Harry Potter movies are the way to go.


    11 Sep 09 at 8:22 am

  3. I am so very sorry. If there are magic words I don’t know them either. We shall all of us die in our time, but it seems especially wrong when parents must stand by the graves of children. Before it brings death, time sometimes brings healing. I hope it does for you.


    11 Sep 09 at 3:38 pm

  4. Robert is right, there are no magic words. I only wish there were.

    Changing the subject to US politics, I must confess ignorance. When I moved to Australia in 1971, one of the first things I noticed was that the press was completely ignorant of US affairs. For example, they seemed to believe that if the President proposed a tax change, it would automatically be passed by Congress.

    These days I can at least read the NY Times online but don’t trust it. I can’t judge whether the complaints in RAM about FOX news or right wing radio have any basis in fact.

    I tend to treat Obama as a minor politician in an unimportant foreign country!


    11 Sep 09 at 5:31 pm

  5. “I tend to treat Obama as a minor politician in an unimportant foreign country!”

    Ah, would that that were true! Being a super-power is not all it’s cracked up to be.


    12 Sep 09 at 9:59 am

  6. I’m with Cheryl – I’d rather hear what the doctors really think. I can supply my own hope. I think that for most people the will to live will do that. When my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer they told her flat out, “this is going to kill you, and it will do it sooner rather than later”. Knowing that she was able to make decisions about how to spend her last six months, and she made her decisions and lived through the pain and deterioration that Jane mentioned with dignity and having made peace with the way her life was ending. I have no idea whether I could do that.

    I’m sorry you lost your sister-in-law, Jane, she sounds like she was a fine person. I hope your mother in law does okay too.


    12 Sep 09 at 11:07 am

  7. I am so sorry, Jane. None of us has any idea what to say, but we are sorry. I hope your mother-in-law can find some solace somehow.


    12 Sep 09 at 6:09 pm

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