“The misfortune is that although everyone must come to [death], each experiences the adventure in solitude. We never left Maman during those last days… and yet we were profoundly separated from her.” ― Simone de Beauvoir, A Very Easy Death
By the time I picked up my head from the book for a quick mental break, I realized that I was already half way to finish.
“Maman had cancer”.
“When my father died I did not cry at all. I had said to my sister ‘It will be the same for Maman.’ I had understood all my sorrows until that night: even when they flowed over my head I recognized myself in them. This time my despair escaped from my control: someone other than myself was weeping in me. ..and compassion wrung my heart.”
“The transition from my mother to a living corpse had been definitively accomplished. The world had shrunk to the size of her room: when I crossed Paris in a taxi, I saw nothing more than a stage with extra walking about it. My real life took place at her side, and it had only one aim-protecting her.”
From the beginning, this book immediately bursted me into unstable emotion. It made me so sad and then the next page gave me hope. Old Madam de Beauvoir said on her hospital bed “in a few days I shall be seventy-eight, and that is a great age. I must arrange my life accordingly. I am going to start a fresh chapter” then, (de Beauvoir) “I rang and rang, panic-stricken: how the interminable seconds dragged out! ” I held Maman’s hand, I stroke her forehead, I talked. ‘They will give you injection. It won’t hurt anymore. Just one more minutes. Only one minute’. All tense, on the edge of shrieking, she moaned, ‘It burns, it’s awful: I can’t stand it. I can’t bear it any longer’ And half sobbing, ‘I’m so utterly miserable,’ in that child’s voice that pieced me to the heart. How completely alone she was! I touch her, I talked to her; but it was impossible to enter into her suffering”
Apart from When Breath Becomes Air, I have never read anything about death written so beautifully. Reading A Very Easy Death felt like reading de Beauvoir’s private journal about her observation during the four weeks while her mother was in the hospital, battling and dying from cancer. It’s unbearable how sad it is to witness this situation in her eyes. Yet she wrote it so naturally, so vulnerably, so compassionately and so so beautifully. Pure beauty. The kind of beauty that put the big mountains in my chest and made me want to cry. I’ve seen death in front of my eyes 4 times in my life and that experiences taught me who I am and how I see the world today. de Beauvoir brought back my memory and taught me the things that I was still confused and looked for the answer. A lot of time I ask myself, ‘what would it be if my brother still live?’ and she said “When someone you love dies you pay for the sin of outliving her with a thousand piecing regrets. Her death brings to light her unique quality; she grows as vast as the world that her absence annihilates for her and whose whole existence was caused by her being there; you feel that she should have had more room in your life- all the room, if need be.”
My love for de Beauvoir is unconditional and I’m forever grateful for reading her works, her attitude and her philosophy.
“But for all that, a successful marriage, two daughters who loves her dearly, some degree of affluence – until the end of the war Maman did not complain of her fate. She was affectionate, she was gay, and her smile ravished my heart.