Death Before Cell Phones by Cari Luna
Before I get too far into this, I must admit that I call Cari a friend of mine. Not like a hangout buddy, but she's an author who has been to my school and read for students and we've stayed in touch and she's a pretty amazing writer and person. There. I'm being up front about it. That said, I love this essay, For anyone who has ever lost a parent, I think there is a type of brotherhood or sisterhood thing that happens. When I read about Cari losing her father, I think of my mother's death. It is a shared experience that most people go through but everyone's experience is different. Yet strangely enough, the same. I don't know if I ever truly felt like an adult until my mother died.
This essay hit me three times. First, my mother died of early-onset Alzheimer's just before her 60th birthday. The disease struck her when she was in her early 40's and by the time she was 47, she didn't have any idea who I was. When she turned 50, she was in a vegetative state that would last until her death. (This is not a good way to die, but neither is the suddenness that Cari's father experienced. There is no "good" way to die; there is just the dying.) The second way this got to me is that Cari's dad was 50. I'm 45 years old and I have a daughter who turns three in May. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm fat (unhealthy) and this should change sooner rather than later. The last way this essay hit me is that it's just beautifully written. This is the first thing I've read of Cari's that isn't fiction and I love it. By the way, her fiction is amazing too.
Essay: 10 of 10
Cari's father died when he was 50 and she was away at college. She describes the time between her father's actual death and her finding out about it as "gifted hours" and that is so well put. She uses short, staccato sentences in many places which match the tone of the story. I also love that she admits that she doesn't have full recall of the day she learned of her father's death. When I tell my students the story of my mom's death, I think I remember fewer details each time. Or maybe when I tell the story it's a way for me to remember the details.
Teachability: 10 of 10
For high school kids, the absence of permanence is a huge concept that many of them struggle with. It's rare when a high school student has a parent die but it happens. I have one student this year who wrote about her dad's death this year and I think it helped her grieve. I have another who lost his mom a couple years ago who has yet to write about it (or talk about it) but it is coming soon. But the absence of permanence is available for everyone to relate to and it's tough to accept and face. I will teach this essay later this year to my kids for sure.