Mortality

14 12 2016

Now that THE episode has aired, I can talk about all kinds of things that I couldn’t breathe a word about up to now.  SPOILER ALERT – if you haven’t seen the Walking Dead Season 7 Midseason Finale – READ NO FURTHER.

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I know I am not the only person who has noticed that things happen in clusters.  I started a new notebook process recently, as I had seven to ten different notebooks working at once, and it got very confusing.  I love these Leuchtturm1917 notebooks that have a table of contents, and page numbers.  It allows me to have everything in one notebook.  They have a variety of pages – up to 250 pages.  I started a section entitled “LINKED” where I detail these types of clusters.  It’s simple – a date, and then a list of the recurring themes I am noticing.  For instance, one week I had “the number 11, Trojan Horse, prosthetic legs”.  I am hoping to circle back to these throughout the next year and see if there are any connections.

Some of the “clustered occurrences” you don’t have to write down, because they are MONUMENTAL.  The week I found out that Olivia would die on The Walking Dead Midseason Finale was one such week.

I was out of town for my first break in over a year with my family – in Connecticut.  On the agenda for the 7 day vacation was lots of time at a fresh water lake, adult coloring (nerd alert!), and family dinners.  The first call came from my Mom.  She told me that she knew how I felt about her keeping things from me – which is absolutely true, I hate when someone waits to tell me something – and she told me she had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  My MOM who had beaten leiomyosarcoma, uterine – which had already metastasized to her LUNGS, she had BEATEN that… and now Parkinson’s.

Complications from Parkinson’s killed my Grandfather Rumsey (Mother’s Dad), and I was living near him in the last few years he was alive.  My Granmommie Rumsey never left his side.  Fed him all his meals.  Refused to travel while he was alive and couldn’t go with her.  I would go and help feed him sometimes, put lotion on his chronically dry legs, talk to him.  He didn’t make a lot of sense, and often called me “Dorien” (my Mom’s name), but in one particularly lucid moment, he pulled me close to him and whispered, “You’re going to make it… actress.”  My Granmommie Rumsey heard it too-  tears came to both of our eyes.

So, that was my memory of the ravages of Parkinson’s and I pictured the same happening to my Mom… it was devastating.  Mom assured me that her Parkinson’s is a mild case, and not very advanced at all.  And I believe her.  It still scares me.

The second phone call came a few days later… and was not unexpected, but was still sad.  My Granmommie Rumsey (Mom’s Mom) had finally passed away at 91.  She beat all three of her children in Pinochle the night before she passed.  I knew it was coming, but I was very close to her.  Her unwavering positive attitude about life – no matter what the circumstances – her deep love of family… I would sit and talk to her about family stories for as long as she would indulge me.  I also thought about my Mom – Parkinson’s diagnosis, and now her Mom is gone.

The third call was a few days later, on a Sunday, when I got home from vacation.  I was sitting in bed with my husband, the kids were running around, and my phone rang… “SCOTT GIMPLE.” I looked at my husband, drew one finger across my throat, and said, “I’m dead.”  LOL!  Scott was so gracious and complimentary and apologetic – I found it incredibly moving that he called me and took time to talk me through it.  And even though Olivia’s death was fictitious, it did feel like a lot of death all at once.  Death, sickness, change…

A few weeks later one of my best friends from high school passed away…

I am not trying to be a bummer here, it is a rather long set up for what I hope will be an uplifting pay-off.

A cluster of occurrences surrounded the Mid Season Finale as well.  I didn’t want to, nor expect to, be upset about Olivia’s death.  But as soon as The Talking Dead folks asked me about it, I got choked up.  There is something to having lived with a person for two years, and then one day…. they are gone.  The day before the midseason finale, I sang at the funeral of a 64 year old woman from my church.  “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Although she and her family were rather new to our church, I was particularly struck by the reaction of her two sons, the younger one especially… who was clearly trying so hard to grapple with the idea of life without his Mom.

Sunday, the death of Olivia happened, and then today… I met with my minister Sione Tu’ata to talk about a memorial service for my high school best friend who passed away.  It is for him, and for another person from our very close-knit group of theatre/speech & debate nerds from high school.  We were a TIGHT pack.  Not only did we spend all day in school together, we spent hours after school nearly every day in Speech and Debate practice, or “PLAY PRACTICE” for the school theatre shows.  Anywhere from 12-16 weekends a year we left school on Friday afternoons for tournaments, and then competed all evening, and all day Saturday.

The conversation that happened when my best friend, the second one of our group to die in two years passed away was this:  we must get together before another one of us is gone.  So, that was what spurred the meeting with my minister to plan an ecumenical memorial service where everyone, religious, or spiritual, or neither, or anything in between – would feel comfortable.

Then it hit me again… mortality… a cluster of reminders of how we’re not of this world for long.  And I remembered something that always helps me as an actress… and really as a human.  Something that reminds me to savor every second I have with every person I have the great fortune of having in my life….

Whenever I feel as if I cannot grasp the GRAVITY of what I am doing onstage, or on camera, I remind myself of how finite this life is.  It isn’t depressing…. on the contrary, it lends great vivid realness to the moment.  It stops me from trying to get ahead… to get away from the pain of the moment – my human real-life pain, or the pain of the person I am portraying in the moment.  I remind myself… “this could be it.”  If it is… have I given this moment the weight and preciousness it deserves?

In episode 4 of Season 7 of The Walking Dead, while I was waiting to find out if Rick had found the missing guns, I remember standing there next to Negan acting as if I was contemplating my last moments on earth.  And then I reminded myself… “Why PRETEND to do it… when you can just DO IT?”  I found myself looking at the long grasses blowing in the wind… the blue sky… I would be sad to see that go… I was scared… but I also felt a bit like if I had to go…. what a beautiful day to do so.  I didn’t skip ahead to what I KNEW was coming – relief, a reprieve, I would be saved – THIS time.  I stayed right there in that moment in all its complexity.

Reminding myself, in acting and in life, of my mortality puts everything in perspective.

The Avett Brothers put it so beautifully in their song LIFE from The Carpenter.  Listen.  Enjoy.  Be thankful for another second, minute, hour, day… year.


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6 responses

14 12 2016
Tamara Rice

Sad but beautiful. I know so many people are afraid of dying but for me knowing there is an end not only makes the lovely more lovely but even the ugly parts more manageable.

14 12 2016
tamarahvt

Sad but beautiful. I know many people are afraid of dying but I have always found the idea of our time being limited to be a blessing. Makes the lovely more lovely and the hard parts more manageable.

14 12 2016
tinasimonjerseygirl

Sniff. I am so sorry Annie. Love you much my dear.

15 12 2016
Lorie Givens

Wonderfully written.

22 12 2016
Bonnie

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and what your going through. The last few months have been more like I’ve become a “push-me-pull-you” in similar events. Your words and how you’ve been dealing in your life has helped. Bless you in your new adventures in work, your a fabulous actor young lady !!!

14 04 2017
Leigh Brown

Wow Thank you Ann so much for sharing your deepest thoughts. I really enjoyed getting to know you better and I will take your words of wisdom and apply them in my life in time of need. Ie: during meditation I have terrible time staying focused.I hope to have the opportunity to meet you in person one day I so wish I could have joined Michele in Chicago but maybe next year Ottawa is a distance away
Many Blessings
Leigh Brown ( Leighski67)

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