Death and the Maiden

I have a lot of music news to write about that I just haven’t, and I kinda want to explain why.

Saturday June 20th was my grandfather and mother’s dual memorial service. I admit, I wasn’t thrilled about including my mother on the double bill, but it all worked out, and it was lovely. I threw together a violin and cello version of the Dvorak Largo, and a friend and I played it. I know at least a couple of my readers were in the congregation, and I want to extend my deepest thanks to them for attending.

On Wednesday the 24th, my grandmother Carol Hogstad woke up, walked past the kitchen table of half-finished thank-you notes, went outside with the dog, and died.

If there is such a thing as a perfect death, she had it. She was eighty-six. Her heart just – stopped. She had no, or a very brief pain: the autopsy revealed she was dead before she hit the ground. She was on the land she’d loved. She’d never had to endure the dehumanization of an extended stay in a hospital or nursing home. Her mind was still sharp. She cooked until the end. Speaking of which, she fortunately hadn’t started her daily baking yet, so there were no flames licking the sky a la the finale of Rebecca. Her body didn’t fall on the dog (in fact, the dog actually slept on her back after she passed). She died outside, so none of us needed to break in a door or window. She’d spent the week previous with family she hadn’t seen for years. She met all nine of her great-grandchildren, and sat for pictures with them. She’d stubbornly survived the death of her husband and her baby daughter, and the only thing left to wrap up from their service was some cold cut leftovers. She was stubbornly strong…but she was also very tired.

She was an extraordinary steely woman. There was much to learn from her. I look forward to sharing some of the lessons she taught me. (DISCLAIMER: My family is currently averaging a death a quarter, so I may not survive long enough to share, but trust me, they were good lessons.) (DEATH JOKES!)

My most recent selfie

My most recent selfie

Anyway! Until I’m done with writing her obituary, and planning her memorial service, and working with the bedraggled survivors to determine how to settle her estate – forgive another (hopefully brief) absence from the blog. Please feel free to laugh about the absurdity of this situation. She didn’t suffer, she missed her husband and her daughter so much, we are all doing okay, and I think we all learned during the lockout that the best way to break absurdity is to deride it.

So. Rest in peace, dear soul. You worked hard. You did a great job. You earned every moment of the sweet rest you are now enjoying. I’m proud I was your granddaughter.

I’ve had a couple of people ask, so I’ll mention it here. The family requests that memorial gifts go to UW-Stout, the college that she earned her multiple degrees at, and where she was a well-beloved professor for many years. Many thanks.

Also: hello, Hartford Symphony. I can already tell my muse is coming after you next. Hopefully my family will stop dying long enough for me to cover the inevitable orchestral labor disputes that every modern autumn brings.



Filed under My Writing

15 responses to “Death and the Maiden

  1. Be gentle with yourself, dear Emily

  2. I am sorry for your loss, Emily. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  3. You have dealt with so much this year. I hope that once all the estate details are settled, you WILL be here in the Twin Cities. Thank goodness your sense of humor is still intact in spite of all the death and grief. Take care of yourself, and ask for help whenever you need it.

  4. Kevin Kooiker

    So sorry for all your losses. Stay strong!

  5. Oh, Emily, I’m so very, very sorry for all your losses. Take your time taking care of yourself and all the things left for you to do. Ask for what you need.
    We’ll all patiently wait for you to return

  6. jhorvath02cello

    Emily very sorry and truly impressed with your strength, fortitude and your ability to maintain some (albeit dark) humor during this exceedingly difficult time. Thinking of you with healing thoughts.

  7. Sarah Shellman

    I am so sorry, Emily. Please take care of yourself, no mater how long that takes!

  8. Jill Eisenberg

    Know how much you are loved! I can’t fathom all the things you have had to deal with, and am in awe of your ability to share your experiences so eloquently. I have learned a lot from you. Thank you! Take care of yourself and please take me up on offers of help. Jill

  9. ealeonard

    Perfect, indeed! One can only hope for such a simple, quiet, uncomplicated death. The humor helps to keep things in perspective. I applaud your wisdom and your sharing. Thank you. My wishes for strength, serenity, and continued humor as you move forward.

  10. Thinking of you, Emily. You manage to keep your wonderful sense of humor when faced with so many of the painful absurdities of life and I admire you for being able to do that. Your mom would be very proud of you. Rest in peace, Grandma H.

  11. John Sorensen

    Thank you, Emily.

  12. dimmsdale

    Condolences, Emily. My heart’s with you. Looking forward to your return to writing, too. When you asked about books to read a while back, I hope I mentioned Kent Haruf. I don’t know why this post and the comment thread made me think of his novels, but it did. Meanwhile, can’t wait to hear your take on Hartford! take care….

  13. patti with an i

    So very sorry, Emily. I write from the vantage point of having lost my own mom rather unexpectedly just a month ago, so I am familiar with some of the pain and weirdness. Your trifecta is truly mind-boggling, though. Keep the humor active. Sending you strength.

  14. Sam Shakusky

    Been thinking about you this last week and hoping you are holding up. I’m bit of a private person and feel intrusive posting my condolences but you have them none the less.

    Also this:

    The Midwest has had lots of rain and I know you are on the slightly, you know, shorterish side.

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