Thursday, February 1, 2007

Terrible news...

I took a psychopathology class from a curmudgeonly and fascinating woman named Lorna Benjamin once. She wanted to change the world for the better. She was on a one-woman crusade to change the manner in which psychologists view psychopathology. She revived the concept of a circumplex model (this would be Tim Leary’s good idea – the one he didn’t pursue because he got, well, distracted). It’s a rare pleasure to be taking a class like that from someone who not only knows the material, but knows the material behind the material. Lorna was a tough cookie (and probably still is – the past tense is just because I haven’t seen her in over a decade). She didn’t graduate a student for years and years after she got there; picking her to chair your committee was reportedly the height of rash vanity.

Lorna spent one of her precious class periods talking about the meaning of life – a subject integral to the topic of psychopathology. She also spent time talking about the role of will in the development and course of psychopathology. It was her opinion that there are brilliant people walking around maintaining ego-integrity through sheer force of will. She may be right – I didn’t find out until years later that one of the most brilliant, compassionate and gifted therapists I worked with suffered from psychotic depression; nearly intractable psychotic depression, actually. She told me about it, sitting in her office one day. She told me about how the medication she took gave her migraines, and how sometimes it was a tough decision just to stay alive. Lorna knew her well – she may have been in that class with me. I confess I can’t remember. She was finishing as I was starting, so most of our overlap was subsequent, and in a different setting. Maybe I’ll write about her another time.

Lorna’s discussion about the meaning of life revolved around the pictures or her grandchildren she circulated around the class that day. My son was still a toddler, then. I talked about what it was like being a parent – anguish and ecstasy. Everything else has paled, in comparison.

So once I found the substance for my latest in a series of trite comments today, and came back to the blog to post it, I found Topazz’s message about Isonomist’s son – the 19-year-old son whose Leukemia had recently returned. Isonomist – a Fray friend, and someone I care for, and respect. Topazz related her son had a cerebral aneurysm today, and is not expected to live.

Perhaps it was related to his chemotherapy. Perhaps Leukemia predisposes one to aneurysm: I have no idea. All I know is my brave friend from New York, who has been facing the potential death of her son from leukemia, is now facing the imminent death of her son – a son she describes as brilliant and unique. A son she describes in the way I might describe my own son.

So, I’m grieving tonight for Isonomist, a good friend I’ve never met, and imagining the way I would feel were he my son, or daughter, and how one more death on this planet of billions can shake the universe from it’s moorings. And I’m trusting in her will, to keep her bound in the face of the most awful of pressures, even though she lose an essential piece of her being.

Everything that ever was remains crystallized in the fabric of the past, and the people we love remain connected to us – even when separated by distance, or time, or unbreachable gulf of circumstance, or even death: and continue to influence us because they’re never really gone from us – they’re part of who we are. And a comfort when they’re gone, I hope; seems a bond so strong should leave more than a void in absence.


Thy Goddess said...


This is devastating. My heart aches, my soul is in turmoil. There are no words that can adequately express my sorrow.

I love you Iso. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

Stay strong.

rundeep said...

You put what we all feel beautifully. I have met Iso, and she is everything you would expect: lovely, warm and charismatic. And her family is wonderful. Not that that matters, really. Because the part of this which affects us is not just that it is hurting someone we like, it's that it's a look into that valley we dare not peek in lest we find ourselves being comforted by others. My heart's in my throat for her, for him, for us all.

Archaeopteryx said...

Fuck you, stupid internet that makes me hurt for people I don't know.

Heliogabalus said...

Every time i come across such perfect ignoble & spiteful expression of destiny. i have no words but, why and how could it be ?. Why a 19 year old kid when our wicked world is a reservoir of individuals who deserve to die.....And for those who can still manage to hold spiritual or religious belief in the face of such putrid injustice, i may ask about the nature of your god.......Iso wherever you are, i cannot pray or ask mercy on your behalf to god, but my thoughts are with you. Today i wish there was a way we could share the burden of your suffering, just to ease your pain.

"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being."

Carl Jung

Keifus said...

Man oh man, every parent's worst nightmare, isn't it? I'm glad someone can dig out some eloquence, but I'm still stuck at something like "fuck." Poor Iso.


bite said...

Love ya, babe

Love her, too.

Who would have thunk that we can feel this way? Thanks for saying it.

All I could do was cry

catnapping said...

I can only add that my heart aches for Iso and her family. My prayers for them and my love, too.

TenaciousK said...

TG: I dunno - you did a good job right there.

RD: Thanks, and thanks for the greater dimensionality you can share. Mortality sucks.

Arch: Can't blame the internet for this one.

Helio: There certainly has been some interesting writing and debate from religious scholars on the topic. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool agnostic; I'm convinced we're too stupid to understand anything from the "greater scheme" side of things.

You know, wouldn't it be funny if everybody was right simultaneously? Unfortunately, I'm too dumb to comprehend how that might work.

Keifus: Yeah - nobody's supposed to outlive their kids.

The best I could do was have a nice dinner with my son, and tell him how much I love him, and how honored I am to be his dad. Life is uncertain. Wrenching to be reminded of that in such a terrible way, but it's an important lesson to pay attention to.

Bite: Love you too, babe.

Catnapping: Thanks. Doesn't seem like words are adequate, does it?

Isonomist said...

I just wanted to thank all of you. This is a difficult day for me, but then they've all been recently. Every step I have to take to deal with his death forces me to acknowledge its reality, and that there's no going back, no calling it off, no canceling it and going back to Plan A. I hope you're all doing well. Thanks for thinking of us, and thanks for these kind and loving words. It helps.

TenaciousK said...

thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I wish I had the words to make it better - to frame it in a way that leaves you feeling a little better, but I'm afraid to try. I'm afraid of committing a sin of invalidation by homily. I am painfully aware of the unreality that sets in, when we're forced to confront a catastrophic loss, or unthinkinkable tragedy.

I talked to my son about death, a little while ago. I told him that when I die it's important to grieve, but that I love him too much to want him stuck there. And I told him the magic of loving each other is that, even when I'm gone - separated by distance, or time, or mortality - that he can summon me by thinking about me, and if he is in need of comfort, he'll know what I'd say, if I were there.

Because that's the gift of reciprocal love; we internalize each other. I don't know if you can take comfort in that or not, but all metaphysical possibilities aside, or speculations about the quantum nature of reality, and the lasting persistence of what was, it is the truth.

We all care about you very much, and I am thinking about you. You have only my best wishes.