December 31, 2001

the school of the dead

As I waver between life and death in my own hospital bed, 30 years after his death, on his birthday in fact, I am somehow not surprised. Terrified, yes. Facing death is not something I'm prepared for. My new baby is just 9 weeks old. How did I get here?

When you lose a parent early in life, you wonder if you'll make it past the age they were when they left you. Every child of death wonders this. That's why I'm not surprised to be near death myself at 36, the same age he was when the luck of the Irish eluded him.

In my hospital bed, hemorrhaging uncontrollably, I am violently enrolled in what Cixous calls, "The School of Dreams." Because I don't die; I live. But in walking the line between here and there, I dream. Images as vibrant as those five-year-old memories, scenes that will carry me through the next half of my life.

Bleeding to near death. Watching helplessly as my lifeforce leaves my body, playing tricks with my mind and taking small pieces of my soul with it, my sanity too. The emptiness is unfathomable. As a new mother, instincts of self-protection battle with the responsibility of caring for this new life. I don't want to see her; don't want her to see me, not like this. My one gift to her: protect her from images of her dying parent--I know how they haunt.

But she comes to visit just before surgery. My sister carries her down the elevator toward the operating room, this small life that has almost cost me mine.

Anxiety gives way to resolve. Once again, I cannot control. I cannot fix myself, I cannot fix my family. I let go, I go to sleep. And I dream. Dreams of pain. Dreams of loss--where is my baby? My husband is gone--no, there he is. And I hear talking, outside of myself.

I am a dream within a dream. A death within a death.

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