My mother died at fifty-nine — altogether too young for a woman of such talent, beauty, and generosity.
Unofficial cause of death: Fatal Disillusionment.
It came on rather suddenly. One day, she was sliding down the curvy slide with my kids, and the next, she was terminal with less than a year to live. Technically, she died of cancer, even though they never did pinpoint where or what kind. Life simply ground my mother into dust. Without malice. Without forethought. Without notice.
Such tragedies begin with our expectations, I think. Ones that we're not even aware that we hold. Apparently, we secretly tell ourselves that ours is the magical marriage that will never rust; ours is the enchanted career that leads to boundless, uncompromised fulfillment; ours is the lofty intent that earns a gracious life and a gentle death. But then we learn the truth.
I was not there when my mother discovered that my father had squandered every iota of financial security she believed she had, without telling her, because he wanted to pursue a grudge. Forty years of faith in the man turned to sand, as did every dream and aspiration she ever had. She dared not believe in anything after that and would have disavowed the law of gravity, had she not been tethered by it. Bereft of will, she mutely endured every medical indignity my father demanded and finally shriveled away to nothing on Independence Day, within hours of her best friend's passing.
It would be easy to blame my father. He spent the second half of his life one bad decision away from headlining the Six O' Clock News, armed as he always was with his .44 magnum. He bullied my mother and terrorized her family. When that tantrum ran its course, he turned his rage on me. But his chronic bitterness took him before he ever made good on his threats, and he died, another martyr to a paradigm long in need of change.
For too many thousands of years, power, greed, and dysfunctional gods have doomed women like my mother, incited men like my father, and brutally exploited the masses in order to procure entitlement for a few. Not that the entitled few actually value or reward the virtues they espouse. Instead, cleverness trumps compassion, intimidation passes for leadership, and honesty is relegated to the fantasies of idealists. Women and children are, essentially, spare parts and minor amusements. And Earth is regarded only as a sizable chunk of raw materials, to hell with the life she supports.