A Tribute to a Special Grandmother – Anna Bella Guillette

THE MANNER IN WHICH WE GO INTO THE DARK

For Anna Bella Guillette

By David Card Leon

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Yesterday, my grandmother died. It was cancer that got her… And while I feel it all happened
too quickly, the other side of that coin is you don’t really want cancer to be lackadaisical about its work.

I want to mourn. I’m certain I will. But I don’t know how. Life has made it hard for me to cry; and at any rate, I’m not sure the story of my grandmother is best told through tears… Not through my tears, at least. I take another approach. Honest mourning should involve
honoring her life. By virtue of being her descendant, I carry her into my world. Perhaps my grandmother’s story is best told through sharing her goodness with everyone I meet; and since we’re being honest, trying to hold back (and laughing a lot about) the worse stuff I do that’s just like her.

Even in all the sadness, there’s a sense of peace. I think that’s why I don’t know how to react, because it all feels so… complete.

I’ve seen death take its time, painfully and systematically shutting a body down; and I’ve seen it pounce so quickly I’ve had no time to react. I’ve seen death lurk, and I’ve seen it loom over us. I’ve seen it win. I’ve never seen death lose.

It makes for excellent dramatic effect to humanize death. To ascribe it personality and force with a sinister quality. Odd, in our cultural lore, quite literally, we give life to death. Then we fear it, and that fear gives it power. It is in that way good poetry can make for bad methodology. Follow me here…

Light is a force. Darkness has no motion and no force at all; indeed, it is not darkness that pushes its way into a space, but it is light that moves about, penetrates and invades.  Darkness is nothing on its own. Darkness is simply the name we give to the absence of light.

Heat is the same. Coldness has no motion or invading force of it’s own. It is heat that radiates into the coldness, while coldness is nothing… merely a word we use to describe the standard
condition of the universe without heat.

Life and death are also like that. It is life that emanates force and propels itself onward. Life moves about and pushes through. From either the frigid or volcanic depths of the sea, to our concrete cities, life teams and adapts and breaches and makes bigger cracks in the unmaintained parking lot. Life circulates and grows bigger and outward, while death is
merely the lack of that circulation that stops and decays.

A pothole in the road is, in fact, nothing at all. It is merely the name we give to the hole where the pavement should be. You see, life and death are not opposing forces. Death is the nothingness where life should be.

Death is not a something.  Death is the lack.

You know, in retrospect, I should not have said “I’ve never seen death lose.” Who is to say death ever truly wins? Although my grandmother died, the fear of the unknown never broke her quiet dignity. True, my very catholic grandmother believed that death is no end; rather, it is the gate we all must pass through. Life does not cease; it simply moves to the other side. But faith is only faith until the rubber meets the road, right? Maybe death is that silent darkness in the cloak; that grim reaper of all things sown. Maybe our reckoning is death laughing as we
all fade to black.

What then? When our time comes, should we fear? Swim frantically for our lives away from death’s gravity like a goldfish circling the edges of a flushing toilet? When the grey rain curtain of this life rolls back, at that moment, each of us will die alone. And although my faith tells me one thing, who knows what, if anything, really waits on the other side?

After the doctor gave my grandmother the foreboding news about her cancer, my aunt leaned over and asked her what she thought about it all… My grandmother replied, “Well, you win some. You lose some.” And that… well, that’s kinda badass.

She not only lived well, but also died well. I want to do that… to never break stride in the face of fear; because it is an unavoidable fact, we too will pass through death’s gate. And in those final moments, our only tangible reality will be the manner in which we go into the dark.

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