Toni Morrison on grief: “They say it’s about the living, it’s not, it’s about the dead”

There is a wonderfully insightful and comparatively candid interview by one of my favourite writers, Toni Morrison here. In it, she talks about the death of her son (my emphasis):

The book [Morrison’ new novel, Home] is dedicated to her son, Slade, who died 18 months ago and in the face of whose death she found herself wordless. She could not work. She could barely speak and didn’t want to hear comforting words from others.

“What do you say? There really are no words for that. There really aren’t. Somebody tries to say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.’ People say that to me. There’s no language for it. Sorry doesn’t do it. I think you should just hug people and mop their floor or something.”

[…]”… people who were trying to soothe me, were trying to soothe me. I never heard anything about him. They say it’s about the living, it’s not, it’s about the dead.

She doesn’t want “closure”, she says. “It’s such an American thing. I want what I got.”

I made a similar point in a recent post, where I discussed feeling a loss for those who had yet to fulfil their potential, those who would never live their lives, and yet without knowing it. It’s comforting to hear a similar sentiment echoed and amplified in this interview, and expressed so well.

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3 thoughts on “Toni Morrison on grief: “They say it’s about the living, it’s not, it’s about the dead”

  1. As I listened to Tony Morrison speaking tonight on Opray’s favorites, a rerun, about children, “Do your eyes light up?”. . . Tony went on to talk about the death of her son, Slade. Tony expressed this same feeling she shared with you – that she “doesn’t want closure”. I am paraphrasing that she went on to say that she doesn’t need or want to move beyond, but to keep those memories alive and close. Well meaning perhaps are the friends and even professionals, therapists and so on, who encourage you to find closure, move past it and even – get over it, the worst of comments in my experience. I lost my daughter in a very tragic and violent circumstance a couple of years ago. A circumstance that did not allow for a last hug, a kiss, some kind of thing called closure which I did have with my father and my husbband in their final hours . It is different when it comes at you in the middle of the night, a nightmare becoming reality. Thank you Tony for your eloquence in validating a parents need to, yes, live on, but to keep and hold dear those memories that keep your “eyes lighting up” a the very thought of them. Ramona O,Neil, Las Vegas, NV

    • I’m sorry to hear of your loss; thank you for sharing your story. Toni Morrison is an inspirational figure and what she says about her son’s death makes sense to me.

  2. indeed,i imagine that your sense of loss is probably past finding out.but if it doesn’t kill us it strengthens us.
    Tony Morrison.Gods peace..
    .Gichuki,
    Nanyuki,Kenya

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