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07 April 2010

In which I have a realization, probably later than most people

I was reading the dedication to a book this morning when I realized: we're all going to die at some point and there's nothing we can do about it. The book was by Deborah Tannen about communication between mothers and daughters. She dedicated it to her mother, who had died while she wrote the book. The dedication went something like this (I'm doing this from memory): "For my mother, born Dina Rosin, May 12, 1911 in Minsk, died Dorothy Tannen, July 23, 2004." The first thing that struck me was the date, July 23 – Helsinki's birthday. But then came the other: she was born, then she died. It wasn't just a range of dates, the numbers 1911-2004, but the verbs: born, died. There's no getting around it, is there? No matter what happened to this woman, the things she went through, born Dina in Minsk, to get to Dorothy in America, at the end of the day, she died. There was nothing she could do about it, there is nothing we can do about it. We don't know how or when it will happen, and we live with this fact every day. Well, mostly, I think we ignore it. And maybe that's the only way to live, because if you think about it too much (the way I am doing now), you'll do your head in. But this seems incredible to me, today, the way it never has before, that we can go about ignoring or forgetting this particular fact of life.

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