Grief encounters

How do you deal with death? A bowl of stew? A strange sense of humor? Members of Salon's reader community, Table Talk, explain this week.

Published April 27, 2007 10:32AM (EDT)

Private Life

Moments of perfection

Heidi Lynn -- 10:38 am Pacific Time -- Apr 22, 2007 -- #1109 of 1121

For more than two and a half years, my freezer has been in a state of suspended animation.

Shrimp and salmon, pork chops and chicken breasts, breakfast sausage and bratwurst, all wrapped and tagged when this was still a happy home, sat on their shelves and in their baskets clearly unaware that Jamie would never again ask, "What'cha wanna do for dinner?"

Bags of vegetables, even a half-used block of spinach I would never have touched, became useless desiccated lumps in the vain hope that they still had reason to be there.

A bowl of beef stew, bought in a moment of thoughtfulness by a loving husband for his wife to take for lunch, sat as a mocking reminder that he would never do that again.

Even an enormous pan of lasagna gifted by a grieving restaurant manager imagined it still might feed and comfort gathered loved ones, even though the visits stopped long, long ago.

This morning, it was time. Time to take all those poor, tired bits and pieces of a former life and stop pretending they have any purpose beyond reminding me that the man I lovingly nourished will never come home.

The vegetables went into the compost pile ... the aluminum foil to the recycling bin ... the meat and plastic wrap into the trash.

The beef stew -- freezer-burned, bland and lifeless -- became my lunch.


Real Thoughts

la maga -- 10:03 am Pacific Time -- Apr 17, 2007 -- #6431 of 6611

When I was reporting there was, unmistakably, glee in the voice of the assigning editor when something truly bad happened. It is perverse, but it was this ... defense.

We were five people who daily recorded the worst aspects of people's lives. Everything on the ladder of criminal ugliness from petty crime to multiple murders. Everything in the realm of human accident from the fluke to what began to seem commonplace, or patterned at least, in some recognizable way. We got to the motorcyclist who broadsided the school bus before his head was removed from the roadway. We got to the fires along with the EMTs and witnessed the ruined flesh of the wheelchair-bound. We sat for hours in the cloaked rooms of domestic abuse survivors who cornered like scared and rabid dogs under the weight of a single too-loose utterance, trying to make sense of how many, many women were dying and going right home to be killed again. I've already said too much about the petroplants melting, can't get out from under that one.

You write, you assume the pain of others, the poverty of others. You talk to the grieving every day and it is never easier -- tell them my Johnny never did no harm. You talk to the crazed every day and you note how close you all have become, the whole writhing, weirded circle of you. You are in prisons, in wasted crop fields among the bones of the past, in dank, beery basements, struggling to find a language that connects you, the lucky born, with the desperately, systematically, uncategorically poor, and you feel the utter futility of words even as you're madly recording every one you hear, scrawling hopefully on a yellow pad that simply must perform some sort of divination. There was glee because without perversity it was all too sad, and this is one measly town in a land of a hundred thousand towns, one measly rag chronicling the lives of a handful of measly, illuminating, incredible, heartbreaking people. It was nothing special. We were nothing special. But that's what we were doing, and we believed in it, and we were young.

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