More on Death and Dying – Diane Finnerty: Rest in Power

Lisa Albrecht’s occasional blog – “Practicing Praxis”, December 30, 2019

My dear friend, Diane Finnerty, died yesterday after her very long battle with cancer. She had been in hospice in Iowa City since November 21 which is when I saw her to say “goodbye.” That’s really not so long, but it felt like an eternity. Her body would not quit, though she was ready to begin her next journey. I miss her, though I believe her spirit lives on within all of us who were part of her “beloved community.” And there are so many.

Death. The D word. Last night was the last night of Chanukah. When I said the blessing, I whispered to Diane that the eight lights would burn brightly to help show her the way.

What is the way of death? How do we do grief? And how many ways do we experience death?

Over twenty years ago, a life partner of mine left me because I was selfish. I did not understand that back then. That felt like a death. I felt like I had a phantom limb for a long time. I still miss her, though we are friends now. I’ve even hoped we’d get back together again, but that will not happen as she has told me. Her friendship means a great deal to me.

I also live with “ambiguous loss” with Pat Rouse (my life partner). She has alzheimer’s disease. She’s here, but not here. She has no memory and she lives in a residence for people with memory loss. The place is wonderful, but she’s not really present. This is another kind of death. I don’t let myself feel my grief from Pat very often. It’s too hard. I enjoy the time I spend with her though she speaks using only random words. She smiles and she hugs you when you smile and hug her. I believe that she knows on some level that she is safe and loved. I don’t know if she knows we were lovers for over twenty years. That’s less important to me in many ways, though I miss having a sexual relationship with her, and the closeness of having a life partner.

There’s also close friends with whom I am no longer close. Another kind of death. If i’m honest, I believe some of them did not want to be close to me any more for various reasons. (Sorry, I don’t feel ready to say more right now.) Some have been honest, but many have just “gone away.” It’s a Minnesota way to disappear by not being truthful. For me, this is a very painful kind of death. I miss a friend who lives up north; we used to bond doing racial justice work. I miss a Jewish friend who is on the periphery of my life now; she helped anchor a Jewish circle I was in.

In this political moment on the planet, there are deaths everyday. Many of us have become numb to these losses.

–More Jews have been murdered in Jewish spaces. There seems to be more and more expressions of anti-Jewish hate.

–Immigrants in the U.S. are being violently separated from their families. Many die trying to find a place to live. U.S. policy has been the cause of their immigration: trade policies have made them poor, or climate change has caused oceans to swallow their land because the U.S. refuses to take responsibility for environmental injustices.

–Transgender people, especially trans women of color, are killed more than we want to admit. Some of us LGBTQ know this, but many of white queer people don’t acknowledge these truths.

–People who are poor and feel like they have no way out have been addicted to opioid drugs in huge numbers since access is so easy. Some poor people commit suicide. Some starve to death. Elected officials fight over who “deserves” food stamps or any kind of support if you are a single mom. Why is this even a question?

–Mental illness is around us everywhere. People who cannot get decent healthcare hurt themselves and their loved ones, while elected officials fight over who gets any healthcare in this country.

–I am an elder now, and I watch all around me as we “old people” get more and more invisible. In the U.S., so many cultures around us are youth-focused. I ride in the elevator in my nice mostly white middle class apartment building as my young neighbors are too busy attached to their cell phones to say hello or ask me how I am. As we age, we get more isolated. Many of us, especially women and people of color have little or no safety net. In Minneapolis, there were just two horrendous fires. One in public housing where people died, and one in a converted old hotel where homeless people were living.

–And of course, we have a gun lobby in this country that supports easy access to guns for most anyone.

I could go on and on. But I’ll stop for now.

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