grinninfoole: (Default)
I'm sitting on my bed with my beloved Feisty for the last time. Now at the end of her 19th year, my precious girl has shrunk down to skin and bones. Her fur is dirty. She can't stand up. It's time. I called her aunt Syd over for a visit, called Aunt Daybreak and let her know, broke the news to my mom, and [personal profile] millari  should be here soon. In the morning, we shall take our little gray tiger to the Cat Hospital one last time.

Farewell, my dear friend. If there is something beyond this mortal coil, please give my love to your uncle Dave, and to Miles and Tilda. It's OK if you ignore Stinky.
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
I never posted the obituary I wrote for my brother. This appeared in the Boston Globe, Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, and the Andover Townsman.

David S. Dow, RIP )
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
At my brother's memorial service, I lined up five other people (my uncle, an old flame of MU's, Hannah-Belle Goulet, a long-time family friend who used to be our neighbor, and [livejournal.com profile] millari) to share their memories of him before I got up to speak. I wanted to keep things moving because Mom gets tired easily, and I wanted to allow everyone else to say their piece, so I kept things simple. (Also, I wasn't sure quite what to say. It's tough for people who have lived in the valley their whole lives to properly describe the mountain to outsiders.)

...and thanks for all the fish. )

At the reception, following my brother's request, we sang Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life. About 100 people turned up, some of them quite unexpected, like the Battler, whom I hadn't seen in 20 years; or Suave and Sydneycat, who both made the drive from the valley; millari's parents; many of the people who have been providing home health care; people from MU's school days, both old & recent. Thanks especially to Millari for returning from Germany for a week.

3:42 PM

Aug. 24th, 2015 07:52 am
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
That's the time at which [livejournal.com profile] mole_underfield breathed his last, this past Monday. I was sitting there with him, chatting with an old friend about his earliest memories of my brother, and then I realized that that Dave was completely still. I can't wrap my brain around that simple fact. Is there not some other room where my brother breathes still? Perhaps in another part of the house that I've somehow lost? When I find it, won't he be in there, reading quietly, or perhaps painting flowers?

Mom tells me, and Dave would nod, that he was truly happy when I was born, and loved to just sit with me, content, even delighted, by my simple presence. Forty-five years together, and I still don't understand him. I look at pictures and I can't fathom what he's thinking, why he's smiling. Then, today, a friend and her beau looked at my profile on a dating site, and explained that I was doing it all wrong, and that I'd never find anyone like that. I need to be more assertive and confident, they say, and explain to any woman reading it why she should want to meet me. They found each other on that site, doing what they tell me to do, so they might be right, but I don't want to make all those changes. I'm so scared of promoting myself like that that I feel hollowed out with dread.

Isn't it odd that I feel so alien from my brother? We're exactly alike.
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
My saga of brother's battle with cancer approaches its tragic denouement. He was diagnosed last May with adenocarcinoma in his stomach, and after several surgeries, all the radiation he could stand, and six months of chemo, his doctor at Dana Farber Cancer Institute has thrown in the towel. He's lost so much weight, his liver is failing, and he's got hardly any appetite. I don't know how much longer I'll have a big brother.

I'm starting to think about what comes next–writing an obituary, delivering a eulogy, helping my mother carry on. I shall soon be an only child–how long til I'm an orphan? My life is in flux, as well, because I recently quit my job, so I could spend more time with the family, and finally got around to filing the divorce papers with Millari. I don't miss the actual duties of my job, and I'm still quite satisfied with how my marriage played out, but I do need to re-answer the fundamental question of mortal existence: what now?

I don't know what MU is thinking or feeling right now. I hope he's not plagued with regrets. I hope he isn't full of dread. Those are natural responses, and I'm sure every person who's ever lived felt them in some measure (I do), but I hope my brother feels loved and contented. He deserves to.

It occurs to me that, as an atheist, I should perhaps share my thinking about what it means to be dead, as distinct from the process of dying. Dying is a transitive, not to say transitional, physical experience. I sometimes find myself thinking about what it will be like for me, where and when it will happen, and what my last sight will be.

The actual source of existential dread, however, is the boundless unconscious unbeing that follows. After a life of consciousness, and especially a life of linear narratives, I really can't grasp what formless, endless, nothingness will be like. The classic answer for we unbelievers is that it will precisely nothing. "I" will no longer exist in any way, so, for me, everything will simply stop forever.

That may be the whole truth.

I do have some suspicions that it isn't, though. (buckle up)

First off, consciousness is demonstrably linked to the electrochemical processes in our brains. Whatever it means to think and be self-aware, everything we know about it depends upon our physical brains. What we don't know, and maybe can't know, is whether our experience of consciousness can be wholly explained by what our brains do. (The Baconian Idol of the Tribe, though the tribe in this case may be any living organism, and not merely humanity.) Many people have written stories about being disembodied, or existing as spirits, or an afterlife, but the truth is that no one has ever experienced life without a body, so we really have no reliable testimony at all on this matter.

Second, the atoms in our bodies are no different from the atoms in anything else. If consciousness is just something that emerges from complexity, then the fact that matter is eternal means that we are eternal. We cannot be destroyed because matter cannot be destroyed, and just as matter can't be created, maybe we weren't really created, either. Maybe we were simply latent in the universe, and even after the complex processes that make us us apparently stop, we're still just as latent, just as waiting to emerge, as we were for the 14 billion years that passed by before our cue.

Third, if consciousness is a property of sufficiently organized matter, then the patterns of that organization are governed by physical laws, just like everything else. Which, I think, is another way of saying that we are specific iterations of a universal thingamabob. The wave crashes on the shore, but the ocean is still there. Everything about "us" will survive the death of our bodies, because consciousness (in this wild notion) is inherent in the physical structure of the universe.

Fourth, this starts to resemble the Platonic ideal forms, with everything physical thing merely an imperfect reflection of the metaphysical exemplar. That may well be nonsense, of course, a charming fantasy with no basis in reality. (Or maybe just a more poetical way of saying 'math, bitches'.) I get antsy when things move away from the concrete and specific towards the abstract. But, I must admit, I can't dismiss the reality, the actual not-made-upness, of abstract concepts. Two plus two equals four, even without humans to think it (I can't believe these are arbitrary things we just invented), even though "two" has no physical reality.

I'm dozing off, so I may have lost my thread, I think that, even without indulging in superstition, the old adage may be true: omnia mutantur, nihil interit.
grinninfoole: (Default)


So, had a lot on my plate this year, and I have neglected LJ, despite vastly preferring it as a place to post more openly and personal than, say, facebonkers.

This year has seen my father die of old age, my brother get cancer (and hopefully recover), a friend from college die of cancer, and me having to step suddenly to more responsible at work.

I didn't work at all in May, but it didn't really recharge me like a vacation, so I'm taking one now. At this moment, I am at the Sheraton in downtown Atlanta, having just picked up my badge for dragoncon. Unlike last time, I'm here alone, just looking to have some fun, visit some friends, and I hope to meet shiny fab in person. I know I know others here, and I hope to see
them, too.

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