Sunday, March 20, 2016

Dying, With Nothing to Say - NYTimes.com

Do we expect too much from our goodbyes? "I realized that while nearly everyone has a fantasy of a “last conversation” with someone they love, very few people actually have it. It is the fantasy of resolving all conflicts, of emotional catharsis, that rarely ever comes to pass, because the habits of reticence or resentment that were there the whole time are still there, because the proximity of death does not transform personalities, or compel us to cut through to the heart of things, however much we want it to. Even in a drawn-out death, when there is technically plenty of time, the last conversation usually materializes only in parodic form. Take Susan Sontag’s mother, with whom she had a very knotty relationship, whose last words to her daughter were “What are you doing here? Why don’t you go back to the hotel?” Instead of an elegant ending, most of us are left with this unruly irresolution, this muddled cutting off....We have an idea that when someone is dying, a new, honest, generous space opens up; that in the harrowing awfulness of dying there is a directness, an expansiveness, a loosening of inhibitions, the potential for things to be said that could not be said before. But if one does actually manage to pull off a last conversation, what can it be but a few words in a lifetime of talk? How can it be enough?"

Dying, With Nothing to Say - NYTimes.com

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