Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thoughts from The Undertaking

I finished The Undertaking last night. Lynch waxes eloquent several times on the interplay of life and death, the way our lack of respect for those on the fringes of life erodes our respect for life itself, the way our care for the dead shows our care for the living. A wee philosophical in a sometimes-crass-sometimes-poetic way.

Lynch, on broken hearts: "Heartbreak is an invisible affliction. No limp comes with it, no evident scar. No sticker is issued that guarantees good parking or easy access. The heart is broken all the same. The soul festers. The wound, untreated, can be terminal."

On community and divorce (a longish quote, but worth the read; more of us need to reach out to others in crisis this way): "When my wife moved out some years ago, the children stayed here, as did the dirty laundry. It was big news in a small town. There was the gossip and the goodwill that places like this are famous for. And while there was plenty of talk, no one knew exactly what to say to me. They felt helpless, I suppose. So they brought casseroles and beef stews, took the kids out to the movies or canoeing, brought their younger sisters around to visit me. What Milo did was send his laundry van around twice a week for two months, until I found a housekeeper. Milo would pick up five loads in the morning and return them by lunchtime, fresh and folded. I never asked him to do this. I hardly knew him. I had never been in his home or his laundromat. His wife had never known my wife. His children were too old to play with my children.
"After my housekeeper was installed, I went to thank Milo and pay the bill. The invoices detailed the number of loads, the washers and dryers, detergent, bleaches, fabric softeners. I think the total came to sixty dollars. When I asked Milo what the charges were for pick-up and delivery, for stacking and folding and sorting by size, for saving my life and the lives of my children, for keeping us in clean clothes and towels and bed linen, 'Never mind that' is what Milo said. 'One hand washes the other.'"

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