The deaths of parents with whom we’ve stayed close becomes a defining change, a chasm we somehow cross, in our lives. My father’s death twenty years ago ultimately inspired my memoir book, A Father and an Island (2008), in part a tribute to his life. This chapbook essay captures, I hope, some of my mother’s personality during the last weeks of her long life. In the process, such a story turns up the harsh ambivalences of so-called clear health care directives.
I’ve always believed, and often taught, that when we try and write about the dead whom we loved, they come back in some ways and leave lasting traces. They don’t stay as far away.
From the book:
“Even when thousands of miles away, I’ve always heard both parents’ voices echoing inside me. . .When you watch the woman who brought you to life quit it, your foundations shake from the earthquake.”
O. Alan Weltzien, longtime English professor at the University of Montana Western, has published dozens of articles, nine books, and one chapbook. His most recent book is Thinking Continental: Writing the Planet One Place at a Time (2017, co-editor), a collection of narrative essays and poems. Weltzien has had two Fulbright Fellowships (Poland, Bulgaria) and one University of Montana International Faculty Exchange Award (Australia). He still skis in the winter and scrambles peaks in the summer. He likes to hike more than most anything else, and his idea of a great day involves hours of reading and writing.