It was a much anticipated notice from the Library that made me run down to Mill Creek to pick up Joan Didion’s “Blue Nights”. I looked forward to reading it with eagerness as well as dread – because this book would follow on the death of Joan’s husband to the death of their daughter. I was not disappointed – it took me very little time to read this work. It’s message, however, lingers.
I am still not sure how it has affected me – but it has done so. Perhaps that is related to the fact that this work – as well as “The Year of Magical Thinking” – is not fiction.
It occurs to me that if it were fiction, I could speculate over how it might have been written for a happy ending, or how some miraculous vision into heaven might reveal a “happy ever after in paradise” future reunion – but Joan’s books are not fiction. They are the capture of her feelings as she has journeyed across the “desert of the real”, to quote the Matrix’s Morpheus. As such, Joan’s pain, confusion, and sorrow are terrifying on an intimate plane and with an imminent nature.
“Like when someone dies, don’t dwell on it,” says Quintana in the quote that reverberates through the book. And yet her comment ironically describes the reality of life after our beloved someone dies. We do dwell on it – we can’t not.
There is no escape for any of us – death will come: for our beloved someone, for us. Joan’s message is underscored in this work: be present, be aware, be appreciative: time is limited; time is precious.