April is the Cruelest Month, Recovering from what life dishes out with T.S. Eliot

by - 1:16 AM

Lilacs at the Arnold Arboretum  © DFries

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, missing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

T.S. Eliot  - The Waste Land

My April has been particularly cruel. 

So much has transpired this month that I feel as if the roller coaster has taken off before I got a chance to pull down the lap bar.  

As I chatted with my 6th grader the weekend of Easter, we giggled about the jokes he would pull on his classmates that April Fools day which fell on the coming Monday.  What we didn’t know that Saturday was that the joke would be on us, not just he and I, but once again on “us” – the collective family – the whole lot of us in the form of a not-so-funny death.

Easter morning rolled around with the preparation of Sunday brunch items for the large family gathering we had planned that day and the handing out of some simple, but joyful, Easter baskets to the kids.  As I passed the first to my youngest child, I answered my cell phone to my sister-in-law who I thought would be calling about the days plans.

Instead she was telling me about the death of her son as she sped to the hospital. 

"Please call everyone” she said and hung up.

So, because we are so good at death, this wonderful family that I am lucky to be a part of, did as we have done so many, many times in the past, we gathered to ease the pain.  We each brought our Easter dinner offerings, our children, dogs, tears, love and humor to be together. 

For whatever reason, karma, chance, bad genes, we’ve had a significant amount of sickness and deaths in the family since 2001.  Most were attributed to devastating illnesses, some to accident and another to suicide.  Sadly, only one could be attributed to age, the rest were just way, way too young to go.

"Only those who will risk going too far
 can possibly find out how far one can go."

 T.S. Eliot (Transit of Venus)

Lucas Langioni
Lucas was a sweet, kind and sensitive boy
we will miss him deeply.   © DFries
Lucas happened to be only 21 when he died.  He had suffered addiction for many years before but had righted his ship and was really beginning to live his life with first a GED, then a good job and some college classes that he had just started.  

He was defining himself and becoming a man.  

He seemed hopeful, as were we, that he was rejoining the living after his long haul of despair with drugs.

"What life have you, if you have not life together?"
  T.S. Eliot (The rock, 1934)

Yet, he died in his sleep after one weak moment, to be found by his twin brother and father the next morning.  

This to me is the cruelest of jokes, just when he was starting to get it together, his momentary lapse into darkness was met with finality. 

And, any of us could make that mistake really.

With great planning and lots of tears we sent this wonderful boy off with a beautiful service only to turn and face the grey month of April. 

Upon my return home I found Buddy the dog to be significantly ill and suffering from perianal fistulas, a painful and chronic condition that has come and gone since he’s come to live with us.  With this most recent attack he had lost a lot of weight and was struggling to get up and down the stairs or to move at all.  I really thought that he might be suffering too much but reserved my thinking to spare the kids another loss.

Buddy slowly recovers.  © DFries
He went back onto his course of medicine and I started him on a home cooked diet.  I warmed up heating pads to place on his aching bones, the kids and I took turns petting him and encouraging him.

What’s interesting to note in this last month is the significance of looking at life through a younger set of eyes rather than through my jaded perception.  During the period when Lucas passed, through the service and beyond the young adults and kids in the family banned together buoying the adults and each other with humor and stories, so many stories of Lucas growing up.  From this I know Lucas will never be forgotten.

Back home, my kids didn’t look at Buddy’s condition with the fear of loss as I thought they might.  They dug in and helped me clean up his accidents and comforted him.  In their eyes they are sure he will be getting better day-by-day.  And, I will hold back my reservations about the fate of this dog and choose to see what the kids see.  His suffering has lessened; the medication and supplements seem to be working, along with the diet as well.  

Ginger the 14-year-old basset terrier napping
away the day!  © DFries  
Behavior wise, this unsocialized dog has been a handful from the beginning and in this last month through his suffering I’ve wondered about the quality of his life.  

Tonight though, he had gained the strength for a longer walk and on that walk he cheerfully greeted each dog as he passed with a wagging tail and happy eagerness.

This demonstration of resilience in people and animal has turned the grey of April into the hope of a warmer May for me.

Every moment is a fresh beginning.
T.S. Eliot (The Cocktail Party, 1949)

You May Also Like


  1. This April was pretty cruel and miserable all right. Usually not though....:)

    1. I know, thanks! I just had to get it into perspective ;)

  2. Sorry for your loss. The loss of a close family member is devastating. Hope Buddy is still mending well. -- barbara

    1. Thank you Barbara, yes, he is much, much better!