Archive for October, 2013

Where Clary spends much of her day — on the other side of the computer I type on

Yet another week. So what’s it like. My muscles pull on and off all the time. They harden and strain. The pain travels up and down parts of my body.

I had a letter the other day from the Admiral’s oncologist. It seems he heard Jim had died. How I wonder did he hear? did he come across it on his computer? He had paid no attention to this patient of his. He didn’t dare phone. I wish fervently that this man get cancer and then have a doctor just like himself. I will write to MedStar about the moral imbecile Antabili.

I’ve heard that some women who are widowed from a beloved husband-friend say they cannot believe he is not going to be there when they come home. They do believe he is there, and cannot somehow get themselves to understand he’s not there any more and not coming back. Not going to re-appear.

Jane Kenyon: Fear of death Awakens Me

… or it’s a cloud-shadow passing over Tuckerman Ravine, darkening the warm ledges and alpine vegetation, then mving on. Sunlight reasserts itself, and that dark, moving lane is like something that never happened, something misremembered, dreamed in anxious deep.

Or it’s like swimming unexpectedly into cold water in a spring-fed pond. Fear locates in my chest, instant and profound, and I speed up my stroke, or turn back the way I came, hoping to avoid more cold.

Once we were told it was terminal the Admiral never spoke of how he felt about death. If say, in later August he gave up, knew it was no use, what was going through his mind. I know he turned white when Pereira said chemo would give him two more months — as if he had no realized he was dying. Yet there was the rage for the first week of August. He asserted he wasn’t thinking of anything in particular when I asked, and I thought it cruel to press. Anyway I never pressed him for replies. But how did he endure it? knowing as he did he would become nothingness. I am remembering: he did once quote from Becket’s En Attendant Godot at me: rien à faire.

Today I’ve decided what I’m doing to endure it is telling myself this is a kind of pretense. I did not today send away an application for a voluntary teaching position at a place that has courses for retired people. I enacted it. I did not find bad links in my website in the worst possible place: the index to Colonna’s poems, which translations the Admiral was proud of (he used a version of the title of the whole translation for his passwords, would use numbers associated with Colonna for passwords). So I am fixing it in the meantime — I tell myself because he valued them and it and don’t want to bother him you see.

I am pretending. I am pretending to live on, acting as if I will. It’s a sort of version of smile and the whole world smiles at you. Like the Mary Poppins Disney songs. Only I do it on wine.

None of this happened. It’s all a very sad play I’ve gotten stuck in — like those unlucky six characters in Pirandello’s play. The Admiral did not die. My problem is the play seems to be overlong. I am waiting for the curtain to go down.

If I get lost what does it matter? I am not wrong to be scared. I have no one to advise with. Money but how can I prevent myself losing it, being cheated? My (male) cousin (a CEO of some financial company he started and is successful at) called and gave me the first good advice I’ve had. The Admiral did protect me. And it’s not his fault. He did all he could have for me. It’s this play I’ve ended up in.

Do tell me how people endure this? I remember watching a brilliantly acted version of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, here in DC (with the Admiral that first summer I retired). Great local actors: Brian Hemmingsen and Nanna Invargsen among them. I had not realized this meaning then.

Still Ian’s most characteristic posture: only know he’s at the side of my chair, gently putting his paw on my knee or arm to ask for attention


I have just returned from an evening with a friend: we went to Politics and Prose and heard Azar Nafisi absurdly overpraise what must be her friend, Goli Taraghi, who lives in Paris and writes supposed apolitical stories. Nafisi was asked because Taraghi is a naive woman incapable of rising to a higher level of generality: one of poignant stories is about a widow (yes) who sells her house to provide an apartment for a daughter who lives in Paris, but neither there nor her other two childrens’ houses provide a home for her. Her home is now a seat in an airplane flying between these adult children. Taraghi’s one generality: how varied is the lifestyle of Iran even today. I learned Nafisi will say anything.

But Vivian, my friend and I had fun. I was able to finger through this year’s expensive photograph book from Fellowes: Behind the Scenes in Downton Abbey ($30). It’s a third book, not one which prints the first two together. The text is yet thinner than the other two, but the photos sumptuous and telling so if I can find it on sale I’ll buy it. I did buy the paperback by Wendy Wax, While we were watching Downton Abbey. About reader response. A sort of Jane Austen Book Club?. I feel I should support Politics and Prose.


We shared a pizza, I had a glass of wine, we shared stories and will go to a movie together on Sunday.

Maintenant comme une veuve


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I brought it home on Saturday morning, Yvette and I set it on the mantelpiece and took some photos. On the top engraved: If I should die/think only this of me/that there is some corner of a foreign mantelpiece/that is a while England.

I’ve decided “for a while” can be read as a suggestion to take the marble urn to the UK and scatter his ashes there in some beautiful park or by a lake or in a wood. I hope to go to England the summer after this one coming and with a friend find a lovely spot.

We did not plan for the our little stuffed sheep, bought in 2005 by Caroline when the four of us went to Stonehenge to be so near — nor that alphabetically the urn would sit near the “J’s” and thus Samuel Johnson (Idlers, Adventurers, a much-battered copy of The Journey to the Western Islands) and not far off Joyce’s Ulysses which the Admiral read two passages aloud from so well two years ago that the James Joyce people running the Birthday asked him to come back this past year to read again with them. But by this June he could not.

Today I remembered a particularly haunting theme song used for the 1977 13 part mini-series, Love for Lydia (out of H. E. Bates’s novel, script Julian Bond): Rachmaninov, the adagio from Symphony No 2.

Love for Lydia, book and film adaptation, opens with a vast ice-skating scene in at a Yorkshire lake. If you watch, you will see the video ends on a wintry lake scene.

O’er Ice the rapid Skaiter flies,
    With Sport above and Death below;
Where Mischief lurks in gay Disguise,
    Thus lightly touch and quickly
O’er crackling ice, o’er gulphs profond,
    With nimble glide the skaiters play;
O’er treacherous pleasure’s flow’ry ground
    Thus lightly skim, and haste away

— translation from Roy’s Verses on Skaters by S.Johnson

The Admiral liked Johnson’s poetry and when he took an undergraduate course in 18th century literature, he wrote a paper on Johnson’s poetry. The professor did not like it.

The stuff of nightmare


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How do I miss you? Let me count the ways.
I miss you when the weather changes:
And you’re not here to experience it.
I miss you when I feel weak and therefore nervous:
gone from me your presence which lent me peace.
I miss you in this silence you’re not coming back from.
I miss you when someone contacts me
to ask me to link their website into ours:
I want to tell you as you made the configuration,
you showed me how to scan the Italian in
you placed my Austen timelines in tables.
I miss you when I go to bed: my hands hold one another
And I hug my body with my arms. There is not a minute
goes by that I am not aware you are not here.

Dear friends and readers,

Today was the last or maybe the second step of two. The last time I saw him, or what remained of my Admiral was when two large strong women hired by the funeral home came to take him away. October 9th, around midnight. I and the hospice nurse had quickly dressed the remains in a T-shirt, jeans, socks, shoes so (as we agreed) he would have some dignity. He had been naked under the sheets and blankets. Nearly three hours later the women came in, wrapped what was then there (it had turned ston-y, a corpse) in a sheet, placed the long bundle in a flexible stretcher and took it out. Since then I have found many many photos of Jim, provided more than 50 for the on-line montage, printed out 6 8×11 photos and placed them in frames around the house, and some smaller ones for inside the larger frames, put in smaller frames, and one hung on a wall. I chose pictures of him looking loving, strong, happy, himself in various moods, meditative, generous, reading, grinning, healthy, how I want to remember him and have him remembered.

I found two more today:

In 1987, our house, with baby Izzy

In 2002, an inn in Old Town, Laura’s first wedding

At the funeral the urn was empty, inside the flower arrangement; I admit I forgot it was there altogether until after I returned home and went back to reading and watching Last Orders. I had no sense of his real presence.

Yesterday Danielle, the funeral manager, phoned to confirm that today at 9 am, the body would be cremated. Did I want to see him once more. If so, they would get him ready. I said no. I was afraid what I would see and remember, and as several people have told me, it’s not him any more. Caroline agreed. I had thought we would sit in some place for a few minutes watching the box go into a crematorium as I saw happen to my mother-in-law in a wooden box in an English funeral home (2004). No. The crematorium was at the end of a garage; on the way there we saw coffins and other things which would be sold for other funerals. We stood on a kind of tarmac with a line drawn by the machine. He was in a darkish blue box. At one end of the box was his name: James Moody, with numbers and information to identify him. It was shock enough to see that. “Is this the promised end?” (King Lear) I thought of the photos of him at age 3, 9, 20. We watched the box roll in, and the doors close. Hard. Then Caroline pressed the switch on.

Sometimes since we made this arrangement I have regretted that there will be no body; it is a final destruction from which there is no going back. No one can test his DNA now. I won’t have a gravesite to visit and put flowers on, to stand by. Nothing to be sentimental over, no matter how such things are half-contrived. I half-dread an urn with his ashes in it as it will feel more real than the photos. It did cost much less and will not take up room on the earth. I have decided I will return to England and scatter his ashes there, I hope with a friend. Find a lake or body of water near a natural piece of ground.

We stood there for a couple of minutes and then it was time to go. Danielle said it would take about 3 hours and I could pick up the urn tomorrow morning after 9. He is indeed gone. I spent many years translating the poems of Vittoria Colonna, grieving over her dead husband, really her life, lost dreams, tormented thoughts, suicidal, half-crazed, deeply erotic, some ecstatic with illusions, a long series of religious meditations. I’ve been surprised at different readers’ favorite ones. I often like her opening stanzas best:

Why endlessly appeal to death’s cold ear,
to what end cry before God to make Him
pity me–if I can myself crack these,
wings and gouge out the pain from my strong heart.

Tonight I was liking this one:

Gone brightness from the air, a light I knew,
gone from the sun and his sister, the moon,
gone from earth; gone Venus silvery star,
gaily whirling rings of shimmering light.

Gone his brave heart, hardened by endurance,
gone the chivalric soul, its beauty and
integrity with all his virtues gone;
the trees are bare, the fields without flowers.

Gone. Caroline and I then spent the day together, counteracting (as it were) that moment. She helped me buy a word program to use for my files — which tonight I was not able to use very well. I couldn’t even manage to save a file without Yvette’s help. This is going to be a steep learning curve for me — I chose it because I know the rft files are poor and if I can master it a bit I will be able to do more with the files — know how many words are in them, how many pages at a minimum. Then we worked out how to get to Ayrshire in Winchester (a JASNA meeting at the rich woman Sandy Lerner’s horse farm tomorrow). A walk in Old Town, lunch at La Madeleine, then back again, to rest, a high point the Antiques Road Show held at Scott’s Abbotsford on BBC America.

Tonight I read Sheridan LeFanu’s relentless ghost story, “Green tea,” and in a little while will subside into a movie, either using HD on demand (Before Sunrise, Sunset and Midnight to choose from?!) or my DVD player. I’ve letters from friends too. I tried to contact my neighbor across the street to see if she’d like to go to see 12 Years in Slavery with me on Sunday. She did not pick up her phone so I’ll go over to her house briefly before Yvette and I set out for our drive.

My life has changed — as well as the computer programs I’m using. My workroom is now set up for the cats too. Ian has grey cat bed to cuddle into when he is not spawled on my desk or (wickedly) curious over wires. Clary has two pads by the windows she has made her own — when she is not sitting on my lap.

I didn’t want it to change. I loved last year and among the remarks I now remember is how the Admiral said we would have 20 such years together.

It seems as if I will have enough money to live here in this our book and (at long last) comfortable house, and not have to work for money — good thing as I’m old. I may take a teaching job (if I can get one, not easy, as I looked online at websites maybe not likely). In the spring, just one section would be all I’d want. Not to be here all alone. It’s not that I cannot think of good projects, books I’d like to write (one of five chapters done), books to read, perhaps find on-line courses (Coursera) to take, Adult studies in AU I know about, even garden (though I still have trouble telling a weed from a flower), visit and be visited by friends, take a trip. But I fear depression, falling out of hard abrasive life too far when I’m alone, losing an ability to function fully when I’ve not gone my Admiral by my side. When he was here, what did it matter? He was strong for me and I was his friend.

Jim’s desk, with his computer and computer and finance books on it (around 2004)


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After long thought and much perplexity, to be very brief was all that she could determine on with any degree of safety … Austen, Northanger Abbey

His last used jaguar

Dear friends and readers,

It’s been 2 days since the funeral, 12 days since the Admiral died; one day this week we’ll have the cremation. I thought when the funeral was over, it had been a good thing to do, a commemoration of him, and had a sense of gratification, closure on his behalf. The closure has gone.

It did go very well. The room was tasteful, not over-lit. One large floral arrangement with the urn and its saying at the center of the wall which was the front of the room before which Michelle stood when she gave the speech. I brought my photos of Jim and Laura placed them about the room. They provided something to talk about as I a couple of times walked with people showing them Jim and I and the children too at several stages of our lives. (Austen: S&S “On every formal visit a child ought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse”). The “collation” as it was called was a good idea too. Coffee, juices, crackers, cookies, fruit, salad, cheese. It too gave people something to do.

The montage on a screen (click on photos and videos) was on part of one of the wider walls (not too big) and for much of the time it scrolled over and over and it was accompanied by Jessie Norman singing Strauss’s Four Last Songs (not too loud).

Unexpectedly four neighbors came, one an old friend of mine from a number of years ago (she lived next door to me), women my age, and a man who had actually known and had spoken to Jim several times. Izzy’s office friends and associates came out for her: 5 people, and they stayed the whole time. Laura had her friends and they were very kind, and some brought relatives, and Rob’s family was there.

Michelle read the obituary I wrote for Jim, the lines from Kazantzakis’ The Odyssey that Mike Powe had found for him, framed upliftingly by assertions like how death was not annihilation because of memory. She did it splendidly and in a sense organized the two hours. I felt I had to say a few words so quoted Sherwin Nuland from How We Die on how the way to honor and remember a person is to carry on living out the values and in the way he had.

I did lose it twice, became hysterical from deep within, welled up but most of the time was under control, just. I wished sincerely there had been people there who had known him, say from his office, or perhaps a few people he’s met with me at conferences we’ve gone to together where there has been some meeting of the minds, or from Columbia where he studied for his Ph.D. But 9 years of retirement and only one reunion at Columbia (about 4 years ago at least) is not enough to continue contact. That is the one thing I regret.

People don’t take photos at funerals.


A friend told me the funeral signals a turning point. Now I am a widow, like Vittoria Colonna whose 600 odd poems I translated.

Willow trees in autumn — Widow an onomatopeic word: wailing, weeping, willow trees

In the morning I was reading Betjemann’s Summoned by Bells in a copy we bought in a Chichester bookshop; it describes the England Jim himself was too young to have known but which was not yet gone when he grew up. He really liked this narrative poem book. Izzy and I had chinese food together for dinner and played our favorite Irish music. And then I read some more of Swift’s Last Orders — an England he would recognize — watched the film yet again and blogged — it was by way of expressing some thoughts I had, bonding with Helen Mirren as Amy and the consciousness, presence in the book.

Everyone on these list-servs who contacted me that day, who sent cards and flowers (and there were people who gave to charities, and to NPR) is so much appreciated I can’t find words to express it without embarrassment.

I was calm when I went to bed, and remembered what Jim said one day to the regular hospice nurse who pronounced Jim one morning as having all these wonderful vital signs. “Were it not for the liver cancer I’d be just great.” (So the DC mayor said when told of the low crime rate figure, were it not for the murder rate, this place would be so safe.) So were it not that he’s was no longer alive it was a pleasant day, no?


A wood fire he built for us to sit in front of the last time we lost power

But he’s not. I’ve changed my gravatar for this blog for the nonce: Fiona Shaw as Mrs Croft without her admiral. The cancer epidemic has deprived him of another 20 years of life, tortured, humiliated, killed him hard.

This experience though, the aftermath, is not particular to death from cancer.
I’m in some kind of state that I don’t know what it is. It does not do to call it grief; the word does not encompass it. To be with another person all the time for years and years and they are gone. I surmise you don’t even need to like them to feel a temptation to live in a ghost story and dream them back, intensely want a revenant. (Very dangerous psychological experience.) Human beings are so constituted this is stunning. Devastation. How we actually experience death. Stoppard in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern says it’s not being here. Well it is annihilation for the person destroyed. They know nothing. When I lament to Caroline “poor man!” she replies, “No, he doesn’t know he doesn’t know.” It’s here, this core from the which these myths of retrieval, re-finding, re-union, retribution partly derive.

Desolation? Half of me gone. Like some machine swooped out what mattered. Don’t know how to live without him? The empty chair. Bedroom. He did so much and some of it I can’t do. Fear the strongest clearest emotion. I’m frightened to be in a world he’s no longer alive in. I feel scared. Almost surprised things carry on working. By themselves. I used to say when he came into a room things began to work because they were aware of his authority. It was a joke between us. It’s silly, irrational, he was not all powerful by a long shot. In Swift’s Last Orders Amy thinks about how frightened she is on the bus now that Jack is dead. I felt safe when my Admiral was here and nearby — like Mrs Croft of Persuasion. If bad things happened, they wouldn’t matter so much. Or they’d be mended. Without his support? Crazed feelings too. Crying suddenly. Maybe this is grief?

Cats are without too. I have a different personality and can’t begin to provide companionship two people did. They are puzzled. Look about them. Ian puts his paw up to me again and again, Clary wanders about or sits on Yvette’s bed.

I don’t know how to deal with it since I can’t define it — maybe the point of these support groups is to meet people going through the same thing even if the words they may use are counter-productive, forms of denial, grating, or sensible advice, comfort, strengthening, little tricks to tell your mind (you promised you’d do such-and-such with so-and-so so no you can’t kill yourself as you are committed). I have found a congenial enough psychologist to visit every week and a half. 45 minutes.

I’m just now reading Donald Hall’s Without a series of poems about his experience: his wife, Jane Kenyon, a powerful poet, died of leukemia. The story of the illness has this paradigm I’ve now come to recognize; they are told, they are horrified and frightened; she has excruciating treatments and they think she is recovering, recovered. Kenyon and Hall did get more time than my Admiral and me: maybe a year or more, but then it comes back, and is relentless. (Don’t believe the stories of how leukemia is a chronic disease — it’s another of these falsifiers. So then the poems tell of terrible deterioriation, pain, frustration, and she dies. Then most movingly — probably the most powerful part of this quietly sincere book, what it’s like for him afterwards. Hall has awoken me to understand I don’t understand what I’m going through but am in this state like the one he writes these poems out of.

As ever I’m finding reading powerful texts central to helping me. Hall keeps writing her letters though he has no address (Richard Feynman did the same thing when his young wife after 5 years of marriage died of TB). He tells her what’s happening. People have gently hinted I could dream Jim still alive. I know that the summers he went to England to be the American (joke here) representative in England of DISA and tests for NATO, he’d be gone maybe 4 weeks; we’d join him (Yvette and I) for 2 in a landmark trust place (by eating in he could afford to have us there for 2 of his 4 weeks in these rented centuries old places in the English countryside). Well I would pretend he was home with me sometimes; especially at bed at night. I loved how loud his voice came across using cell phones (one did not feel he was any further off than around the corner). He’d call mid-day his time, early morning mine. It helped my mind slip less over the course of the day because sometimes it would; I did feel the stress bad, and the worse when he was long ago 6 weeks in Germany, before the Internet, before cell phones, I did not hear from him for 3 weeks. That was an experience analogous: it was like he had vanished, and I was alone with little Caroline. But I knew (supposed) all times he was coming back.

Here are two of Hall’s poems. Remember I said time divides: there was when the person was alive and nearby, your other half, and now they are not alive, and there’s only the silence and palpable absence.

Just before:

   In the last hours, she kept
her forearms raised with pale fingers clenched
   at cheek level, like
the goddess figurine over the bathroom sink.
   Sometimes her right fist flicked
or spasmed toward her face. For twelve hours
   until she died, he kept
scratching Jane Kenyon’s big bony nose.
   A sharp, almost sweet
smell began to rise from her open mouth.
   He watched her chest go still.
With his thumb he closed her round brown eyes.

Jim did raise his arm that way, but towards the end of the two day and night ordeal his two arms were quietly laid by his sides. I stayed right by his left side, falling asleep sometimes, my hands over his as long as I felt them to be warm and looking like living hands (with a sense of their slender bony structure by that time — they began to go cold and round like a doll’s, or a glove), and then I tried for a while to put my arm around his chest. I did better at talking to him. I watched his chest go still. And then I don’t know what I did.

This is after; now she’s gone, dead. It’s long but it does bring together how the experience of having cancer together (as it were) feels. You are cut off from everyone else. On another side where things are colorless. Time means nothing, weather irrelevant (except to ache your heart if you go out in it). The world with its ugly terrors goes on: I’d tell the Admiral of this senseless murder, that massacre, how Obama wanted war in Syria and Kerry was his bully-man on TV all day, but what was this to the Admiral’s pain and he did not know the chemotherapy Jane Kenyon endured. The poem is also particular to cancer.

And how it feels afterward ( a great ghost story by Wharton is called Afterward). Some parallels. No opera. “How are you doing today” they ask Emma Thompson in Wit. The bewildered pet. The unuttered sentences — terrible Hall surmizes but Lear knew better.

we lived in a small island stone nation
without color under gray clouds and wind
distant the unlimited ocean acute
lymphoblastic leukemia without seagulls
or palm trees without vegetation
or animal life only barnacles and lead
colored moss that darkened when months did

hours days weeks months weeks days hours
the year endured without punctuation
february without ice winter sleet
snow melted recovered but nothing
without thaw although cold streams hurtled
no snowdrop or crocus rose no yellow
no red leaves of maple without october

no spring no summer no autumn no winter
no rain no peony thunder no wood thrush
the book was a thousand pages without commas
without mice oak leaves windstorms
no castles no plazas no flags no parrots
without carnival or the procession of relics
intolerable without brackets or colons

silence without color sound without smell
without apples without pork to rupture gnash
unpunctuated without churches uninterrupted _
no orioles ginger noses no opera no
without fingers daffodils cheekbones
the body was a nation a tribe dug into stone
assaulted white blood broken to shards

provinces invaded bombed shot shelled
artillery sniper fire helicopter gunship
grenade burning murder landmine starvation
the ceasefire lasted forty-eight hours
then a shell exploded in a market
pain vomit neuropathy morphine nightmare
confusion the rack terror the vise

vincristine ara-c cytoxan vp-ro
loss of memory loss of language losses
pneumocystis carinii pneumonia bactrim
foamless unmitigated sea without sea
delirium whip marks of petechiae
multiple blisters of herpes zoster
and how are you doing today I am doing

one afternoon say the sun came out
moss took on greenishness leaves fell
the market opened a loaf of bread a sparrow
a bony dog wandered back sniffing a lath
it might be possible to take up a pencil
unwritten stanzas taken up and touched
beautiful terrible sentences unuttered

the sea unrelenting wave gray the sea
flotsam without islands broken crates
block after block the same house the mall
no cathedral no hobo jungle the same women
and men they longed to drink hayfields no
without dog or semicolon or village square
without monkey or lily without garlic

The same fire from above, burning towards end – after the “jewels” of coals had vanished

Ana Mendieta, Silueta Works, Mexico (20th century moment)


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    We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep — The Tempest

Flowers from Jill and Dave Spriggs

A card from my friend, Diane Reynolds

Dear friends and readers,

You can begin with the montage of images (click on photos and videos) if you prefer. Or hold off until later.

These past three days I’ve eased my heart some by spending time on and off finding cherished photos of Jim and me and events with our daughters and without them too over the course of our lives, putting them in frames and placing them about the house. I still have these old-fashioned albums where people put photos in over the years; I inherited a few of my mother’s, and my mother-in-law sent me photos over the years.

I also have been getting since last week beyond what probably add up in the hundreds of letters and notes by email, nd many wonderful cards from friends which I have placed on the spinet piano which the Admiral used to play. My father bought it thinking he would learn to play and he did, a little, but then tired of it, and then sent from NYC by moving truck to our house where the Admiral did indeed play songs — we have many books of music, songs from operas, from musicals, separate songs. Yvette plays too.

Clary Cat ever getting into the act

The admiral kept a photo of me taken at the time of my book, Trollope on the ‘Net, and one each of Caroline graduating high school, and Yvette from Sweet Briar college.

I remember the day the piano arrived and talking on the phone with my father (now also gone). I remember Christmases where Jim would play carols.

Christmas 2003 — you can’t see him as he’s taking the photo.

We’ve (he’s still here in my mind you see, part of me) also gotten some flower arrangements. This of white roses and lilies with a bluish sheen from my beloved friends, Thao and Jeff — came all the way from Toronto, Canada.


An edible arrangement from two friends from the EC/ASECS (18th century friends), Erlis and John:


I’ve placed these two by some of the framed photos, but in the house it’s all scattered about. I have more than one image of the Admiral in each room.

The funeral is tomorrow and by yesterday the funeral manager (I’m not sure what her title is) put up a montage of images I sent her, most of them picked out by me, but some by Caroline — she brought in the cats much more. I like the one of Ian (the ginger tabby) staring out, and one of the Admiral looking buried in books, a computer on his lap, framed by cats.

There is a sort of funny goof in the pictures. I chose a line from Marvell’s The Garden when I was asked for a single line of verse: “Annihilating all that’s made/To a green thought in a green shade.” She did not recognize the next line to be me worrying she was going to make the line repeat over and over

Here’s the poem for those who may not remember it: Marvell’s The Garden. I once wrote a paper on it and a poem by John Suckling, “Upon a Wedding,” as two forms of 17th century ritual joy; and on one of my computers used to have the repeating line as part of background: “Fair Quiet, have I found thee here!”

I think I did type “to” but she put it “into.” Maybe she thought that clearer. It is mid-point of these passages:

Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness:
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas;
Annihilating all that’s made
To a green thought in a green shade.

Here at the fountain’s sliding foot,
Or at some fruit-tree’s mossy root,
Casting the body’s vest aside,
My soul into the boughs does glide :
There like a bird it sits and sings,
Then whets and combs its silver wing …

Is there anything more beautiful — or capable of erasing from my mind the memory of that stony corpse I saw wrapped in a sheet and taken out of my house at one in the morning after his spirit has vanished after enduring two days & nights hard ordeal of hard dying (comfort measures are a euphemism for how the person is helped, heavily sedated is closer to it), with me next to him. So I chose Marvell as a counter to what I saw, as pastoral. I was torn and thought of Shakespeare’s Prospero’s lines:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

The thought is truer to my and the Admiral’s vision of life (he is not “entered into his rest” as the montage has it — if he were I’d visit him — he died), but I could not find a single line to choose from, and I knew how he liked Donne and the metaphysicals. He’d quote Donne at me, especially some erotic lines …

We’re going to have Strauss’s Four Last Songs as sung by Jessie Norman (a favorite with Jim), a long medley by Sondheim (also favorite music) and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. The rabbi will read my obituary and whatever else she prepared and also the poems on these two blogs;



I’ve paid for cheese, fruit, light drinks (tea? juices?). Yesterday I bought myself a pair of velvet black pumps and a pretty black top I hope the Admiral would have liked — to wear with a black skirt. While there I was very fragile, near tears, and excused myself to the clerk, telling her my husband died last week. Within minutes she was telling me of how her husband of 45 died ten years ago — within two months liver cancer killed him. I hear such stories, daily, gentle reader. Why does no Camus write a La Peste or Defoe a modern Journal of a Plague Half-century (with no end in sight)?

People have asked before, Why the Admiral? It needs a separate blog, for now because he was my Captain, only from the sea (Southampton and sailors in his background), my lord (a picture from Edward Gorey will capture this), and if we had gotten to go to a masquerade I would have loved to dress up as Mrs Croft to her Admiral. She was only unhappy when left on shore; when with him, all was well.

Fiona Shaw as Mrs Croft:

The only time I ever fancied myself unwell, or had any ideas of danger, was the winter that I passed by myself at Deal, when the Admiral — Captain Croft then – was away in the North Sea. That I did not like. But as long as we could be together, nothing ever ailed me, not a thing … (Austen’s Persuasion via Nick Dear)

Jim might not have wanted it though: he said he would have been embarrassed by such a crown-like big hat.


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Jim, circa later 1980s, in our house on Cloverway, Alexandria

Dear friends and readers,

Just what you were longing for. Another photo of my Admiral, this time from the 1980s, an era I had not put photos from here (though I have put a couple now on Austen reveries, and Ellen & Jim have a blog, two). People grieve in highly individual ways, and one way I’m coping with Jim not being here, his disappearance, this void, is to counter it. I’m gathering photos of him that I have cherished especially and putting them in frames and placing them about the house (and on the Net). I’m telling of good memories. I am doing what I can to keep him alive still (what else did I do for 5 months) & to remember what he valued, bringing him back in my mind.

I will at some further point return to how he died and the disease, cancer. It’s crucially important that people begin to put into the public realm the terrible suffering this disease causes, how it’s a killer (it’s not become something most people just endure as chronic), how the medical profession mistreats, exploits & fleeces patients, the complicity of its agencies (MLA, FDA) and the centrality of our increasingly (still) carcinogenic environment. Have a look at this essay by Spock way back in 1982; in French’s Season in Hell (she survived esophageal cancer) French tells us of how the Central Illinois Public Service Company of Springfield was ordered to pay $3 million to one family among many in Illinois destroyed by a rare form of cancer, neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nerve endings; at the time of her writing her book (1995) Amerencips was appealing. I’ve just been offered a copy of Malignant to review: Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us by S. Lochlann Jain: “Nearly half of all Americans will be diagnosed with an invasive cancer—an all-too ordinary aspect of daily life …” Reading some of the brief reviews it may be a book justifying the present situation (see how complex it is all is), a stalking horse for the ACS.

But just now I’ve not the strength to go into this. Instead I’m telling of his favorite poetry, writing some myself. For the funeral cards (given out to people who come) I chose three stanzas which, put together, seemed to me to mirror the more English aspects of his tastes. There will be three sets, each having a stanza.

You know about Basil Bunting; the Admiral’s preference for formal elements in poetry; to me that Bunting’s poetry is Yorkshire where he and I met makes it more yet. I remember one day we went to York Minster, stayed in a neaarby pub, walked all around the moors

A thrush in the syringa sings.
Hunger ruffles my wings, fear,
lust, familiar things
Death thrusts hard. My sons
by hawk’s beak, by stones,
trusting weak wings
by cat and weasel, die.
Thunder smothers the sky.
From a shaken bush I
list familiar things
fear, hunger, lust.
O gay thrush!

— Basil Bunting

The admiral had a weakness for Rupert Brooke and we have two books of his poetry in the house:

Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies and truth and pain? …. oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?
— Rupert Brooke

Beyond Grantchester,, he remembered Brooke in the gently ironic lines rooted in Jim’s classical learning (and opera, the urn we got is an imitation of one he saw in Handel’s Giulio Cesare as an HD mash-up) which we are having engraved on the urn with his ashes in it:

If I should die, think only this of me
   That there’s some corner of a foreign mantelpiece
That is for a while England.

Another favorite was Betjemann. The admiral said he preferred the quietly sardonic, but the book he bought (with lovely illustrations) was Summoned by Bells:

DEAR lanes of Cornwall! With a one-inch map,
A bicycle and well-worn “Little Guide”,
Those were the years I used to ride for miles
To far-off churches. ….
In quest of mystical experience
I knelt in darkness at St. Enodoc;
I visited our local Holy Well,
Whereto the native Cornish still resort
For cures for whooping-cough, and drop bent pins
Into its peaty water . . . Not a sign:
No mystical experience was vouchsafed:
The maidenhair just trembled in the wind
And everything looked as it always looked . . .
But somewhere, somewhere underneath the dunes,
Somewhere among the cairns or in the caves
The Celtic saints would come to me, the ledge
Of time we walk on, like a thin cliff-path
High in the mist, would show the precipice.
— John Betjeman

We will have music at some point, and Caroline is looking for us on-line Jessie Norman singing Strauss’s Four Last Songs to make what she and Yvette call a play list.

The lyrics are by Hermann Hesse.

Jim would sit quietly listening.

The girl cat, Clary, is missing him. She sat near him all day & slept with him at night. Now she lays on Yvette’s bed all day and in his chair all night. I am not making this up.



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Recent photograph of Jim, early fall 2012

Dear friends and readers,

A memorial funeral service will be held for James Andrew Moody, on Saturday, October 19th, at noon, at Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home, 1500 West Braddock Road, Alexandria, Va, 22302. A notice will appear on Sunday, in the Washington Post. All friends (virtual too) and acquaintances of Jim, family and friends are heartily welcome. For further information, click here.

Our friend, Michael Powe, placed a part of a magnificent poem on my face-book timeline which Jim would have been honored, so pleased, to have placed as a tribute to him:

Let Death come down to slavish souls and craven heads
with his sharp scythe and barren bones, but let him come
to this lone man like a great lord to knock with shame
on his five famous castle doors, and with great awe
plunder whatever dregs that in the ceaseless strife
of his staunch body have not found time as yet to turn
from flesh and bone into pure spirit, lightning, deeds, and joy.
The Archer has fooled you, Death, he’s squandered all your goods,
melted down all the rusts and rots of his foul flesh
till they escaped you in pure spirit, and when you come,
you’ll find but trampled fires, embers, ash, and fleshly dross.
(Kazantzakis, The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, XXIII, 27-38)


The admiral and I (to slip back to playful pseudonyms) attended Michael and Anne Powe’s wedding in the summer 2003:

(from August 16th photos)

Obituary: he is gone.


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