“Gone”. It’s a word that many use as a more timid way of saying someone is dead.
This is one of those usages that makes no sense to me. Nor does the impetus behind the usage. Birth and Death are the only things that all of us experience. Our only universally shared experience. Only there’s not enough of us yet at birth to record the experience in any meaningful way.
That leaves only death.
It’s not only cowardice, of course, that prompts one to say “he is gone” instead of “he’s dead”. It’s a literary device, or it’s an abstraction that’s properly aligned to a given context, perhaps. But those are not the uses that bother me.
Why do I bring this up? No, I’m not so morbidly moribund, even though I play such a one in my blog of late. I bring it up because the usage of “gone” to mean “dead” is so alien to me at this point that I actually miss the implication of “gone” sometimes. It’s an interesting (to me) state of mind, misinterpreting a death-statement because the speaker thinks of “dead” as some kind of imprecation.
[beat]I normally hate this “after the cut” or “read more” things, but thar be spoilers ahead, and I hate ruining things for people more than I hate the “read more” conceit. So if you want to continue, well, click on the “Read More” below. Also? The comments also contain spoilers.
I’m now [struggling in] reading Michael Tolliver Lives! by Armistead Maupin. Now, maybe it’s just my severely attenuated reading comprehension, but it wasn’t until several chapters after it was first mentioned did it hit me that Mona Ramsey died eight years ago.
When Mouse was talking about how the sick and the elderly both have a more pragmatic working relationship with death that the rest of us, he mentioned more explicitly that Mona was dead. If you have a sick or older member of the family think about the services of Home Care Assistance in Nassau County so you can make sure they are taken care of, it is useful and necessary in many cases.
I was floored.
I frenetically flipped back a few chapters to find where Mona had been mentioned before. It took a while, scanning each page for the string “Mona”, but there it was: “Mona is gone eight years now”. I thought Mouse meant “gone” as in “gone back to England” after her visit to San Francisco when she had breast cancer.
It sunk in as that long-forgotten chapter’s end stared back at me: Mona is Dead.
I burst into tears, fully aware that this was a fictional character who was never biologically alive. The awareness was nothing compared to the ton of bricks of the simple fact of Mona being dead.
I cried and cried, and as quickly as it arrived, it stopped. I closed the book, careful to put the bookmark back in at my current place and not the old chapter. Not because I didn’t want to reread several chapters, but because I didn’t want to be back there where she died.
It’s a joy, ironically, to be so enmeshed in a fictional world that you can mourn such a death. But I have mourned biological deaths and this felt little different. I was little happy reminding myself of the fiction of it all.
Maupin gave us real people. So real in fact, were the goings-on between the characters that I have often found myself mapping those interactions to real interactions in my life. Not living the book, but instead letting the book live beyond its pages or its frames of celluloid.
I can still say in all earnestness that I miss Mona. I have missed Mona all these years since the last Tales of the City volume was published, but there was always the notion that she’d be back.
And now that notion is………gone.