FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Needs of Others

by MISSY BEATTIE

I ran out of my kingdom this morning, past businesses and houses with flowering lawns. Hearing music, I felt that ancient call of divinity and watched a perfect American family (wife, husband, son, and daughter) enter a place of worship, a sanctuary for some, a Sunday morning coming down or comeuppance for others, and usually, for me, real estate seldom noticed. I wondered what my mother would say, that quick-witted little woman who made pronouncements about proper church attire, if I heeded the sound of music and wandered in, wearing New Balance and spandex.

I ran on, continuing to think about my mother. The choice she made to stop medical screenings after Daddy died. Her decision to starve rather than endure weekly blood transfusions. I was at home in Kentucky during her last days.

As I write, sister Laura’s on her way to Kentucky. I haven’t been there since Mother died. I don’t know why I can’t go. I tell my siblings we should gather somewhere.

Just yesterday, I asked Erma and Laura to tell me their most meaningful memories. There was silence as each of us considered. Finally, Erma told one—her exhilaration when she placed her hand on a pregnant friend’s body and felt the baby move. I mentioned those looks of acknowledgement between Charles and me when the children did or said something hilarious or brilliant. Even now I think about that gaze, visualize a highway, physical, electric, and my heart murmurs.  Finally, we talked about a family trip to Bethany Beach, the vacation that started a tradition. Mother, Daddy, Laura, Erma, Charles, the children, and I would stay together in one condo. My brothers and their families were nearby.

When I left Laura and Erma’s house after dinner, I continued the reverie: Mother and Daddy in their car on I-64. Laura, son J and I ahead in Laura’s car. Looking back to see Mother and Daddy begin an acceleration. Their car directly to our left.  Mother’s bare ass against the front passenger window. My ladylike mother, the etiquette expert, pressing a ham.

Then this streaming detoured to the painful times—the days, weeks, months of dying and death that also give life its significance.

That also give life its significance. Our memories and knowing that we die.

“I don’t know what I’ll do if my parents die,” I’d said (circa 1980s.)

Charles: “Honey, it’s not if, it’s when.”

A couple of weeks ago, I read an essay online. It begins with a vignette, the writer’s noticing a girl, about 15, crying and talking on her cell. Should he intervene?

I told a friend to check it. After reading it, she emailed her question: “Did he get involved?” I wrote no. At least I don’t think he did. And had regret—regret that inspired his words.  Here’s an excerpt from the piece, the last paragraph:

We live in a world made up more of story than stuff. We are creatures of memory more than reminders, of love more than likes. Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be messy, and painful, and almost impossibly difficult.  But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die.

“Being attentive to the needs of others…” actually should be the point of life. And not merely observant of someone across the hall, across the street, across town, or just beyond the state line. Sure, this would be a start. But I mean abandoning borders, denouncing tribalism, and embracing all among/within this ecosystem we’ve labeled planet Earth.

Consider what we’d receive “in exchange for having to die.”

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio, Nashville Life Magazine, and was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: missybeat@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail