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Mrs. Dalloway, Death, Dandelions

By Deborah

I have been teaching Mrs. Dalloway for two weeks; I have been grieving my father’s death for four.  For a week, mourning was public — e-mails, phone calls, plane trips, viewing, funeral, funeral potatoes, cousins, cards.  Now it seems quiet.  Achy limbs. Ordinary days marked by a few sharp intakes of breath.  Loss that doesn’t feel like depression. Pain that doesn’t feel like despair. More like a wound.

And tricky, stream-of-conciousy Mrs. Dalloway begins to make sense to me — a woman’s life in a single day.  Her simple goal: to throw a party.  She is the picture of confidence.  But then you spend the day traveling in her mind, living as much in memories as in the present.  And yet she loves the present. This moment. This June day. Loves it to the point of grief — the beauty of the sky, the uncut roses.  Memory and moment, the sum of her life.

“. . . that one day should follow another; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday; that one should wake up in the morning; see the sky; walk in the park; meet Hugh Whitbread; then suddenly in came Peter; then these roses; it was enough. After that, how unbelievable death was!-that it must end; and no one in the whole world would know how she had loved it all; how, every instant . . .”

I tend to live too much in the future, but this month has been much more about moment — including two shown below: 1) my father’s gravesite, where I visited alone the morning after his burial; 2) a Catholic Shrine I stumbled upon while driving for no reason because I couldn’t think of anything else to do but drive.  They were beautiful moments.


Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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  1. Caroline says:

    Heather, thanks for this post. I appreciate this reminder to live in the present and enjoy every beautiful aspect of the day. My best to you in such a hard time.

  2. hpm says:


    Beautiful post. The hugs enclosed in my written note to Clark are meant for you as well. There is a passage from Middlemarch where Eliot speculates that if we were not “wadded in stupidity”, we would be paralyzed by the tiniest sounds–grass growing, squirrels squirrelling, etc. I am glad that being “wadded in awareness” produces a happier result, and I wish you all the beautiful, joyful moments your camera–and your heart–can accommodate.

    Heather (of Provo and Boston)

  3. Caroline says:

    Duh, this isn’t from Heather, it’s from Deborah. I was just thinking what a striking and sad coincidence it was for both H and D to lose a dad at the same time. Now I get it…..

    Thanks again for the pictures, Deborah.

  4. Jessawhy says:

    I love your pictures. What an interesting connection between the book and your grieving.
    Even though it takes immense concentration, I try to live in the moment a few times a day. My children are the best example, they are ALWAYS in the present, and often enthusiastic. (which is why I am always tired)
    Thank you for this thoughtful post.

  5. Kelly Ann says:

    Deborah, thank you for sharing this. I am sorry for your loss.

    Today would be my Grandfather’s 87th birthday (who was more like a Father to me). And although it has been a couple of years, it is a really good opportunity to reflect. Death forever changes you and it is good to remember to enjoy the moments you have.

    Thank you for your thoughts.

  6. Kiri Close says:

    Deborah, how i miss my father reading this post.

    There are some moments in my endless tracts of days that unexpectedly reprise for me as nostalgic times with daddy:

    I bite into a PBJ sandwich, & the olfactory-turned-taste becomes his Long Beach home.

    I tread through fresh cut grass, & the lawn transforms into our house in Samoa.

    I smell certain woods, & the interior of our San Diego house fills the air.

    Even hand guns do it. Daddy was an expert marksman in the Marines long before we ever met.

    Those places with dad I’ve been physically removed from for quite some time now, and thankfully I cannot shake their phantoms.

    Teary as I type this.

    I read Proust in his ‘St Beuve’ and realize his phantoms are just as palpable as mine.

  7. Deborah says:

    Thanks, Kiri, for those beautiful images.

    Losing a parent may be a nearly universal experiences — but as we only have one dad, it’s also one of the most intensely unique or emotions. That tension between universal and unique makes me feel embraced and lonely at the same time.

  1. September 22, 2008

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