Showing 461 - 470 of 526 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mourning"

Whither Thou Goest

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Nov-05-1999
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story draws attention to subtle ramifications of organ transplantation for the survivor(s) of the donor as well as for the organ recipient. Also at issue is coming to terms with the sudden death of a loved one. Hannah, a woman in her thirties, finds that three years after the violent death of her husband, she is still caught, "unable to grieve or get on with her life . . . . "

The physician in charge had persuaded her both to allow life-support to be terminated for her brain-dead husband, and to agree to organ donation. "That way your husband will live on." Seven different people are the living recipients of his organs. To Hannah, it seems that her husband is both dead and not dead, an intolerable situation.

She becomes obsessed with trying to meet the person who received her husband's heart. This will be the means by which she can re-connect to the living and achieve closure--she will hear and feel her husband's heart in the chest of the recipient, her ear "a mollusc that would attach itself . . . and cling through whatever crash of the sea." At the end of the story, Hannah has succeeded in her quest and the man who is the heart's recipient, at first suspiciously hostile, has become Hannah's co-conspirator and protector.

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God Said, Ha!

Sweeney, Julia; Sweeney, Julia

Last Updated: Oct-27-1999
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Julia Sweeney performs on film the dramatic monologue that she wrote and performed "live" on stage. The period of her life on which she focuses are the nine months of her brother's dying, when he and her parents moved into her home--an idyllic bungalow that she had set up for herself, following her recent divorce. Instead of having the opportunity to enjoy the freedom of being single again, she is thrust into the thicket of family relationships, the sadness of her brother's poor health, and the demands made by his treatment for lymphoma.

Her parents, she says, have always been for her a "source of comedy, or a reason to be in therapy." These are the resources Sweeney is able to tap as she comments with humor and insight on living like a child in her own home, as her mother takes over the household and bickers with her father, who is drinking too much. But even as she jokes about the clash in lifestyles between herself and her parents (after all, she hasn't lived with them for 16 years), she weaves into the narrative the nature of life with her brother, whom she accompanies for his daily radiation treatments and whom she ministers to as he undergoes chemotherapy.

While not minimizing the seriousness of her brother's illness, she (as well as he) can find the surreal humor in their medical encounters. Thus Julia Sweeney describes how, when scar tissue prevents further injection into his spinal fluid and the doctors recommend a brain "shunt" for that purpose, assuring them that other patients "love their shunts," brother Mike not only agrees to the procedure, but adopts the slogan, "I love my shunt" for every conceivable situation.

The surreal becomes the real when Julia learns that she too has cancer--a rare form of cervical cancer that will require a hysterectomy. Even as she describes her shock and horror at this new blow, Sweeney takes comfort in Mike's sense of humor: he accuses her of getting even with him for taking "the cancer spotlight." Her narration of picking up her own pathology slides and of making the decision not to have her ova ("eggs") harvested and fertilized are both funny and poignant.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

Editors Angela Belli, professor of English at St. John’s University in New York, and Jack Coulehan, physician-poet and director of the Institute for Medicine in Contemporary Society at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, have selected 100 poems by 32 contemporary physician-poets for this succinct yet meaty anthology. The book is subdivided into four sections, each of which is prefaced by an informative description and highlights of the poems to follow.

Section headings take their names from excerpts of the poems contained therein. There are poems that describe individuals--patients, family members ("from patient one to next"), poems that consider the interface between personal and professional life ("a different picture of me"), poems that "celebrate the learning process" ("in ways that help them see"), and poems in which the poet’s medical training is brought to bear on larger societal issues ("this was the music of our lives").

Several of the poems have been annotated in this database: Abse’s Pathology of Colours (9); Campo’s Towards Curing AIDS (13) and What the Body Told (94); Coulehan’s Anatomy Lesson (97), I’m Gonna Slap Those Doctors (21), The Dynamizer and the Oscilloclast: in memory of Albert Abrams, an American quack (129); Moolten’s Motorcycle Ward (105); Mukand’s Lullaby (33); Stone’s Talking to the Family (79) and Gaudeamus Igitur (109).

Other wonderful poems by these authors are also included in the anthology, e.g. Her Final Show by Rafael Campo, in which the physician tends to a dying drag queen, finally "pronouncing her to no applause" (11); "Lovesickness: a Medieval Text" by Jack Coulehan, wherein the ultimate prescription for this malady is to "prescribe sexual relations, / following which a cure will usually occur" (131); "Madame Butterfly" by David N. Moolten, in which the passengers in a trolley car are jolted out of their cocoons by a deranged screaming woman (142).

Space prohibits descriptions of all 100 poems, but each should be read and savored. Some others are particularly memorable. "Carmelita" by D. A. Feinfeld tells of the physician’s encounter with a feisty tattooed prisoner, who ends up with "a six-inch steel shank" through his chest as the physician labors futiley to save him (23). In "Candor" physician-poet John Graham-Pole struggles with having to tell an eight-year old that he will die from cancer (27). Audrey Shafer writes of a Monday Morning when she makes the transition from the "just-awakened warmth" of her naked little son to tend to the patient whom she will anesthetize "naked under hospital issue / ready to sleep" (72).

In "The Log of Pi" Marc J. Straus muses about being asked "the question / I never knew" that he "pretend[s] not to hear" whose "answer floats on angel’s lips / and is whispered in our ear just once" (113). Richard Donze wants to know why "Vermont Has a Suicide Rate" (132). Vernon Rowe remembers the "hulk of a man" who shriveled away from an abdominal wound and begged, " ’Let me go, Doc,’ / and I did" (44).

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A Dog Named Hopi

Smith, Sybil

Last Updated: Sep-22-1999
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

In my dreams, now, in my re-imaginings, I leap away as easily as a deer, and with as little hesitation. My spandex-covered legs scissor the ditch, and my feet ride the ground instinctively. My brown hair sways as I dart off into the forest . . . In real life, I got into the truck. (p.25)

A young woman retells the story of her rape--to herself, to the reader, and to a therapist who possesses "no startling answers--just a quiet ability to receive and transmute pain." The art of transcending pain through communication is at the heart of this story. The narrator survives by talking to her rapist and challenging his human core, by revealing everything to caregivers, by allowing herself to replay and dissect the details of this trauma.

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Another World

Barker, Pat

Last Updated: Sep-22-1999
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Nick and Fran move into an old house with their family: Miranda, thirteen, Nick's daughter from a previous marriage (her mother has been hospitalized with depression); eleven-year-old Gareth, Fran's son (who was almost aborted); and a toddler, Jasper, the child of both. Fran is pregnant again. Nick tries to hold them together as a family, but must also take care of Geordie, his grandfather, who is dying of cancer at the age of 101.

Geordie believes that what's killing him is a bayonet wound he received in World War I. As his disease progresses, the old man relives the war, especially the battle in which his brother died, with increasing vividness. After Geordie's death, Nick learns that in the battle he had killed his wounded brother who may, he thinks, otherwise have survived.

Geordie tells the story in an interview with a historian working on memory and war, and confesses that he hated his brother. She gently tells him that "a child's hatred" is different, but he--like the novel itself--refuses to see this as mitigation. Geordie's tale resonates both with what Nick learns about the house he bought--in 1904 the older children of the family living there were believed to have murdered their two-year-old sibling--and with Gareth and Miranda's resentment of Jasper, which has near-fatal consequences.

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The Shawl

Ozick, Cynthia

Last Updated: Aug-12-1999
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

The Shawl is comprised of two stories, "The Shawl" and "Rosa," originally published in The New Yorker respectively in 1980 and 1983. The first and much shorter of the stories is an extremely powerful account of the brutality of the Nazi concentration camps. Rosa, (who we meet again 30 years later in the second story), has been hiding and protecting her daughter Magda in a shawl. Rosa's 14 year old niece, Stella, (who also is central to the second story) takes the shawl from the child for her own comfort. The horrific events that follow, tiny Magda's search for her shawl and discovery by a German soldier who hurtles her to her death against an electrified fence, shape the remainder of Rosa's life--and this book.

In the sequel, Rosa, now 59 years old, has moved to Miami (a "hellish place") after literally destroying the junk shop in New York which she had owned. She lives an isolated life in a dilapidated one room apartment. Stella, who remained in New York, supports her financially, and is her primary source of contact with the outside world. A serendipitous meeting at a laundromat with a Mr. Persky, however, changes Rosa's life.

This is not to imply that there is a romanticized ending to this story--just a glimmer of hope of reconnection to the world is offered. For Rosa was still living the holocaust. As she put it--there's life before, life during (Hitler's reign) and life after--"Before is a dream. After is a joke. Only during stays." This orientation to the world is what Persky challenges.

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The Lives of the Dead

O'Brien, Tim

Last Updated: Jul-09-1999
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This excerpt from Tim O'Brien's autobiographical fiction about the war in Vietnam is a reverie of memory, dream, and story that resurrects the dead. The dead are fellow soldiers, the enemy dead, and a first love who died in childhood.

Tim, the narrator and writer, was only four days into his tour of duty when his platoon commander ordered an air strike against a village that is the source of sniper fire. When the platoon walked through the destroyed village, they found one old, dead, mutilated villager. Tim's fellow soldiers had developed a ritual of "greeting the dead" in which they pretended the dead person was still alive, was someone to be greeted, spoken to, both in mockery and in respect. They applied this ritual to the enemy dead as well as to their own dead.

Both repelled and fascinated by the ritual, Tim remembered his own method for animating the dead-in childhood-friend, Linda, whom he mourned and continues to mourn. After she died of brain cancer, he intentionally dreamed her alive and held conversations with her, just as his compatriots held conversations with their dead colleagues. Now, years later, he is telling the story of these experiences, these dead, these rituals, "keeping the dead alive," and "trying to save Timmy's [his younger self's] life with a story."

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Durable Goods

Berg, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Jul-07-1999
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Katie, the twelve-year-old protagonist and narrator, lives with her sister, Diane, and their father, a military man with a violent temper, on a military base in Texas. She remembers their mother, now dead, as a kind, gentle presence, able to temper their father's violence, though Katie begins to realize that the mother had also lived in apprehension of his outbreaks.

The story develops Katie's strategies for coming to terms with the loss of her mother, the fact that her mother never succeeded in protecting her from her father's violence, and eventually the loss of her sister who runs away. She begins to learn how to negotiate with her father and seek and receive nurture both from others and from herself.

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Helping Verbs of the Heart

Esterhazy, Peter

Last Updated: Jul-05-1999
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The novel begins with the death and funeral of a mother, told from the viewpoint of a son. The reader meets other family members, including the father, a sister and a brother. This portion of the work drifts back and forth in time, putting together a history of the family and relationships among its members.

Abruptly, the viewpoint drifts to that of the mother, who tells her secret story--glimpses of her past, memories that come as a surprise in the face of the impressions gained from the opening narrative. Finally, the story returns to the last days of the mother's life, and the power of her love for her son, who once again assumes the role of narrator, as well as the loss of the inhibitions between the two.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

In July of 1986, author Andre Dubus was assisting some stranded highway motorists when he was struck by a car. After two painful months of hospitalization, one leg had to be amputated at the knee; the other leg, damaged and immobilized in a cast for many months, became virtually useless, but still painful. Dubus was forced to "accept life in a wheelchair." (106)

In meditating on events and people in his life before and after the accident, Dubus leads us to the interior space of his suffering, fear, moodiness, stoicism, and religious faith. Like the Hemingway character he describes in "A Hemingway Story," he has both gotten over and not gotten over the consequences of his accident.

"Sacraments" interweaves the receiving of religious sacraments with the concentration, care, and love associated with making sandwiches for his two young daughters, the emotional pain of carrying on a love relationship by telephone because of his limited mobility, the received sacraments of learning how to drive his specially equipped car, and of getting a bargain from a swimming pool contractor--"the money itself was sacramental: my being alive to receive it and give it for good work." (95) Concluding with the recollection of his father's death; Dubus notes that "I had not lived enough and lost enough" to recognize the grace that accompanied past pain.

Pain and grace continue to compete for his attention: "The memory of having legs that held me upright at this counter and the image of simply turning from the counter and stepping to the drawer are the demons I must keep at bay . . . So I must try to know the spiritual essence of what I am doing." (89) Similarly, mourning--for what he can no longer do-- and gratitude--for what he once was able to do-- go hand in hand as Dubus remembers the joy of running for miles in the countryside (" A Country Road Song").

The body's memory and the losses suffered figure importantly also in "Liv UIlman in Spring." In this powerful piece, Dubus describes his meeting with the actress, how he was moved to tell her "everything," how, bent low, "her eyes looking at mine" she said, 'You cannot compensate.' " (130) For her honesty and understanding Dubus was enormously grateful.

"Witness" relates the uncanny experience of meeting a woman who had witnessed his accident. Wonderment, fear, depression, inspiration, and writing about this incident were the result. As always, Dubus wrote in order to be led to some further understanding. The essay ends, "Today the light came: I'm here."

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