Showing 401 - 410 of 518 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mourning"

Eva Moves the Furniture

Livesey, Margot

Last Updated: Nov-01-2001
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Eva McEwen is born in Scotland in 1920. Her mother dies shortly after giving birth to her. At the age of six, Eva is "visited" by two strangers (an older woman and a teenage girl) that only she can see and hear. These mysterious companions steer the course of her life. During World War II, Eva serves as a nurse in a burn unit.

She falls in love with a plastic surgeon but her supernatural attendants have other plans for Eva. She secures a job as a school nurse, marries a teacher, and has a daughter. Sadly, Eva dies at a young age from cancer of the liver and pancreas. Thus the novel ends much like it began, with the tragic death of a young mother who leaves behind a devoted husband and daughter while ghostly visitors are poised to both share and meddle in the youngster's life.

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Summary:

This varied collection of short stories and poems is unified not so much by theme as by their appropriateness to the intended listening audience--the bedridden or homebound elderly. In a brief but moving preface editor Carolyn Banks recalls her work in an adult day care center where she was expected to entertain those who were recovering from strokes or suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Reading aloud provided sometimes startling moments of contact with patients who were incapable of sustained conversation. Banks realized that while there are many story collections for children and general adult audiences, no one had done a collection for a group with these specific needs.

The collection includes 52 stories--one a week for a year--that cover a range of life situations. Not all focus on age or illness, though some do. In several a grandparent plays a crucial role in a grandchild's life. Some are set in the 1930's, 40's and 50's--periods likely to trigger memories for those now in their 70's and 80's.

Several stories focus on situations of widowhood and other losses, and some on death: Banks insists that death "is not a taboo topic." Many of the stories are comic, since, she comments, laughter is "an important response to court." All are short enough to read in a half hour or less, and "not insultingly simple."

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The Saltonstall Family

Des Granges, David

Last Updated: Oct-18-2001
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

This monumental portrait of the 17th century knight, Sir Richard Saltonstall, and his family was commissioned for the Saltonstall family home. The wealth of the family is indicated by intricate tapestries, a woven rug, jewels, and the rich fabrics of clothing and curtains. Absent from the picture is any religious iconography.

Saltonstall stands left of center and draws back the rich red curtain on the deathbed of his first wife. With his ungloved right hand he holds the hand of his eldest child, a son. This son is still young enough to wear a dress, but his coloring and the dress style indicate a boy. He in turn holds the arm of his younger sister, so that a diagonal line is formed from the father's hat, down his arm and through the two children.

The pale dead mother lies all in white, her eyes open, and her upturned hand reaching towards her children. On the right side of the picture sits Saltonstall's second wife, and she holds her baby on her lap. She also is dressed in white and is separated from her husband by the first wife. In addition, the diagonal line between Saltonstall's left hand and his baby is interrupted by his dead wife. However, he does gaze in the direction of his second wife, although no one in the portrait looks directly at another person.

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Pilgrim

Findley, Timothy

Last Updated: Sep-18-2001
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The novel opens with a man known only as Pilgrim hanging himself in London in 1912. Despite being pronounced dead by two physicians, he somehow lives. Pilgrim has attempted suicide many times before but is seemingly unable to die. He claims to have endured life for thousands of years but has tired of living and only longs for death. He has crossed paths with many historical figures including Leonardo da Vinci, Saint Teresa, Oscar Wilde, and Auguste Rodin.

After his most recent suicide attempt, he is admitted to a psychiatric facility in Zurich as a patient of the famous Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung. Pilgrim eventually escapes from the institution and masterminds the successful theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Next, he sets the cathedral at Chartres on fire. The novel ends with Pilgrim driving a car into a river on the eve of World War I. His body is never found.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

At the age of 42, Barbara Rosenblum learns, after several misdiagnoses, that she has advanced breast cancer. This book, co-written by Rosenblum, a sociologist, and her lesbian partner, Sandra Butler, a feminist writer and activist, is a record of their lives together from the diagnosis until Rosenblum's death three years later. Early on, Rosenblum decides that her dying will be exemplary and self-conscious, and she and Butler use their writing as a way to create an illuminating examination of their lives over those three years.

The book's title is accurate; the writing takes the form of alternating meditations by two women, on the effects of cancer on their relationship, their work, their families, and their social, political, and spiritual beliefs. Especially significant are the differences between their voices, and the differences between the experience of the person who is dying and that of the person who is going to have to survive and grieve. The writers bravely explore the conflicts between them as well as their profound bonds.

After a mastectomy and eighteen months of chemotherapy, Rosenblum has a very brief respite, followed by liver and lung metastases, and prolonged further chemotherapy. A few months after ending treatment, she dies at home.

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The Black Snake

Oliver, Mary

Last Updated: Aug-22-2001
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Mary Oliver's six stanzas are a meditation on the processes of life and death. The narrator observes the death of a snake by a truck that "could not swerve." The occurrence of sudden death is, after all, "how it happens" and the snake now lies "looped and useless as an old bicycle tire." For most observers of this familiar sight, that would be the end. The narrator, however, stops his car and carries the cool and gleaming snake to the bushes where it is as "beautiful and quiet as a dead brother."

Upon continuing his drive, the experience generates reflection about death: its suddenness, its weight, and its certainty. At the same time the narrator notes that dying and death of others ignites a brighter fire, one of good fortune: "not me!"

The final stanza describes the innate drive and tenacity of life forces. Because life, rather than death, is at the center of each cell, unimpeded by death, the snake and all other forms of life move forward tenaciously, unimpeded by the threat of death.

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Kaddish

Ginsberg, Allen

Last Updated: Aug-09-2001
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Dedicated to the poet's mother, Naomi Ginsberg, the poem is a narration and a lament arising from Ginsberg's memories, three years after Naomi's death, of her life and of his life with her. This long poem is subdivided into 5 sections that address the dead woman directly.

The highly poetic Part I is a reflection on death, life ["all the accumulations of life, that wear us out" (p. 11)], mortality, the link between the dead and the living, the great unknown that lies beyond death--not in the abstract, but in the signs and symbols of Naomi's life/death and in the issues that remain for her son: "Now I've got to cut through--to talk to you / --as I didn't when you had a mouth." (p. 11)

Part II is a long narration of Naomi's life story, especially the history of her mental illness and of the role it imposed on Ginsberg himself. Ginsberg "was only 12" when he brought his mother to what was intended as a rest cure; instead, she became psychotic and was hospitalized, leaving Ginsberg with an everlasting sense of guilt. Separated from her husband, Naomi spent years of paranoia in chaos and institutionalization; son Allen vacillated between pity, disgust, escape in travel, and (homo)sexual exploration.

At the last meeting with his mother, in a mental hospital, she didn't recognize him. While living in San Francisco, two days after Naomi died, he received a letter from her: "Strange Prophesies anew! She wrote--'The key is in / the window, the key is in the sunlight at the window--I have / the key--Get married Allen don't take drugs . . . .' " (p. 31)

These passages give a vivid sense of mental disease and its impact on the family. Ginsberg is not self-pitying or self-indulgent in his description of the illness that laid siege to his mother's life and which so strongly influenced his own life for years. Modestly, he inserts: "I was in bughouse that year 8 months--my own visions unmentioned in this here Lament--" (p. 25)

The brief "Hymnn," is a blessing: "Blessed be you Naomi in Hospitals! Blessed be you Naomi in solitude! Blest be your triumph! . . . Blest be your last year's loneliness!" Part III (one page long) is a short recapitulation of Naomi's life, and uses her own cryptic words to try to make sense out of her life as well as of all life and death: "But that the key should be left behind--at the window . . . to the living . . . that can . . . look back see / Creation glistening backwards to the same grave . . . ." (p. 33)

Part IV, a chant, reaches beyond the personal to social history: "O mother / what have I left out"; (p. 34) "with your eyes of shock / with your eyes of lobotomy; " "farewell / with Communist party and a broken stocking"; "with your eyes of Czechoslovakia attacked by robots . . . ." (p. 35) Ending with the short part V, Ginsberg cries out to the shrieking crows circling in the sky above His mother's grave, "Lord Lord O Grinder of giant Beyonds my voice in a boundless / field in Sheol" (p.36) [Sheol is a Hebrew word meaning "the abode of death."]

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What Waiting Is

Carroll, Robert

Last Updated: Aug-09-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This chapbook consists of two parts. The first part is a sequence of 20 poems that describe the final illness and death of the author's father. He is "a man who won't die," a man who has survived the ravages of several chronic illnesses, but who now faces another surgery, "to have the toe / amputated before gangrene set in." Yet the father is finally "slipping / below the horizon." His son sits in the hospital corridor, imbibing the sights and smells of the present, while moving back and forth in his mind between the past and future.

At last his father dies. Life goes on, connection goes on. The author thinks about his son, "my son is lifting the world / on his back . . . " The second part of the chapbook is a long poem called "Kaddesh for My Father," modeled after Allen Ginsberg's Kaddish and written about a year after his father died.

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Tract

Williams, William Carlos

Last Updated: Jul-05-2001
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker proposes that traditional practices of burying the dead are too sober and should be replaced by simpler practices. Townspeople are as skilled as "artists" and able to "perform a funeral." Instead of the lugubrious black hearse, a farm wagon will do. There is no need for "windows," "upholstery," or "brass rollers."

Nor are formal "wreaths" or "Hot house flowers" appropriate; more suitable are mementos such as a prized book or old clothes. The silk hatted driver is overdressed and should wear more ordinary attire and walk at the wagon's side. Whatever the weather, mourners, who soon will follow the dead person's lead, should abandon their cars and follow the wagon on foot--and grieve openly.

On one level the poem urges a more honest funeral, one without pomp and circumstance. On another level, Williams is addressing the need for an American idiom devoid of pretension and borrowed imagery.

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Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Warren here supposedly presents the papers of a late friend, detailing the interesting cases he had encountered as a physician. In fact, the "cases" are sensational short stories, presented as a novel due to the framing chapter introducing the narrator's "Early Struggles" to make a living as a physician. Other stories investigate typically Gothic themes like ghosts, duels, graverobbing, elopements, and broken hearts, with other scandalous problems like gambling, dissipation, murder, domestic abuse, and suicide. Medical topics include mental illness, epilepsy, hysterical paralysis ("catalepsy"), cancer, toothache, consumption, syphilis, heart disease, alcoholism, disease of the spine, gout, amaurosis (blindness), puerperal hemorrhage, measles, and stroke ("apoplexy").

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