I have mentioned this before, but it’s worth saying again: reading an article or a book, watching a movie, in fact, any encounter that we experience as we go about our lives is bound to leave some sort of an impression on us. It could be a fleeting impression, a profound one, or anything in between. And it all depends on our age at the time of the experience, our mood, our circumstances, our memories, our past, our present. We bring all those with us to the event we are experiencing.
This is what happened as I was watching a year 2007 movie titled: Two Weeks, written and directed by the brilliant Steve Stockman who based the script on an emotional personal experience. In brief, the movie is about a woman’s (Sally Field) last two weeks of life with her four children flying in to be around her. I would recommend this film to everyone. It touched me, amused me, made me cry and brought back the emotional and personal experiences that I went through when my mother, my husband, my brother, my favorite aunt and my brother-in-law passed away all within a five-year period. I was still grieving one, when the second passed on! To say that I was walking in a stupor for those five years, emotional, saddened, feeling abandoned and unhinged would be putting it mildly. Looking back, I feel as if those years do not belong to me; as if it must have been some other woman inhabiting my body at that time, living, coping, functioning in my place. For how otherwise to explain it when my emotions were running amok and I thought that I was being perfectly normal? And how to explain people in the Middle East who are surviving the daily traumas of having all one’s family members killed by a bomb, or a drone, the weddings and funerals annihilated, the thousands of children kidnapped, burnt and buried alive under rubble? Nothing could! How do those that ordered these crimes live with themselves knowing that the extreme pain they have – and are – causing is for profit and power? Are the poor GIs in the war arena the only ones to suffer the maiming, the PTSDs, while those that gave the orders go unscathed? There are no pills to ameliorate this! Talking about my dwarfed grief with all this in mind seems to be, in a way, self-indulgent! I am one of those privileged in this world whose loved ones died at hospitals and in homes where they were cared for and spared any pain throughout the last period of their existence with us. Not so for many of the bereaved victims of wars and the many kinds of aggression. Ach!!
The most poignant part of the film for me was when the daughter goes to the airport to pick up one of her brothers who notices a stack of books in her car about what happens at the end of life. Throughout the movie, she seems to be referring to one book or the other about death and dying. This reliance on books to walk her through what her dying mother was experiencing, as well as the emotions and questions that she herself was encountering, caused me to think how utterly desolate our lives have become, and what tremendous losses we are suffering in this modern world of ours where books have replaced our wise and experienced elders; words on a page have supplanted the sense of continuity and communal living that precluded books; the printed material that has displaced another human’s understanding touch and comforting words; dealing with a dying family member by referring to a manuscript has replaced being surrounded by those who had gone through these events before us and who could gently walk us, with their compassionate words and experienced actions, through every step of that event. Quite perplexing!
Not only are the four siblings sharing an emotional and sad experience, but they are also asking, at this late hour of their mother’s life, what their grandparents did and who, in essence, were they. Here again, with the nuclear family having replaced the extended kin and kinship, most modern-age people, especially in the United States, seem to have lost touch with their origins and roots; with that vital cementing sense of continuity; with the close presence of their elders and their history. It is a huge loss! It invites a certain callousness to one’s existence; an individualistic approach to a life that is devoid of a sense of knowledge, responsibility and respect for those without whom we wouldn’t have existed; a loneliness of spirit and spirituality that no church, mosque, synagogue or organization can replace; a raison d’etre that fulfills a deep longing within every human being to connect with those that paved their way. It is, indeed, a sad place to find oneself in.
Throughout the movie we are exposed to what death and dying entail these days, for it is not only the sadness and impending sense of loss but, also, all the procedures and arrangements that are required. Stockman elegantly manages to bring many of those to our attention: dying at home, in hospital or hospice; medications, prescriptions, morphine and how to dispose of those; closing up bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts; checking of wills, medical directives, and funeral arrangements (if any had been done, or need to be); organizing paperwork, photos and albums; sorting through memories, belongings and closing up residences; contacting funeral homes: burial or cremation? For those involved in this emotional process the sheer enormity of the task at hand is daunting.
On that unhappy note, and being that it is close to the end of another year, one that brings me closer to the inevitable end of life, I will now go and check – as I do every end of year – that all my files and paperwork are in order so that I will cause my children the least amount of distress and dilemmas. This makes me wonder whether any of the war-mongering and corrupt politicians also realize the inevitability of their dying, and whether they question themselves on the bloody legacies and unethical policies that they have imposed upon the millions of innocent souls? No wonder there are so many senseless murders going on in the world; so many people on drugs; those that are abusing prescription medications and the corrupt doctors who prescribe them; so much insecurity, anxiety, angst; so many of us withdrawing into the cocooned safety of our homes and enclaves while feigning helpless indifference to the rest of our chaotic, war-infused and unjust world.
The end of another year is drawing closer . . . perhaps we could all pretend, even for a brief and passing moment, that all we have left are two weeks, and then, bring out that Swiffer again and start cleaning up our closets and drawers; organizing our paperwork; checking our wills. I wish I could clean out the corrupt politicians and all the depraved humans and corporations as well!! I wish!