I’m reading God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet for one of those clubs I told you about yesterday and I’m already halfway through it. I started it now, even though the meeting isn’t for nearly three weeks, thinking it was going to be boring and I wanted enough time to slog through.
And now I can’t put it down. Wow. It’s like a memoir mixed with history and current events. So far, her story is filled with some of the most beautiful AND tear-jerking scenes that I’ve ever read; real scenes, too, which makes them all the more painful.
I also feel like the author is pretty fair. The book doesn’t seem politically motivated or too one-sided. It describes problems she’s experienced as the healthcare system in the US has evolved over her career without making it sound like it’s all easily fixable. “If we only did X, then everyone would live forever in a happy state of bliss!”
I’m enjoying the read immensely.
I posted these two quotes to my Instagram this morning, not that anyone has seen them. Can you feel the sad? Sometimes that place makes me feel more like a misfit than I ever did in high school, which is saying A LOT.
“…I learned that medicine had once had a name for this, this something present in the living body bout was missing from the corpse.
Spiritus was the breath, the regular, rhythmic breathing of the love body that is so shockingly absent from the dead.
Anima is the invisible force that animates the body, that moves it, not only willfully but also unconsciously- all those little movements that the living body makes all the time.”
This caught my breath because I was there the day my grandmother died. (I’m not using a euphemism. She died, end of line.) And I was there the day after, just in time to sit with her body and say goodbye. It was an amazing experience; one I wish everyone could have.
There is nothing like it in this world.
The last time I saw her, she was in a hospice bed in her living room, unconscious but alive, filled with “spiritus” and “anima.” Even though she could not respond to our attentions, she was there, probably listening and wondering why she could not move her body or give us the “look” for our playful rudeness to each other. She had pancreatic cancer and was in so much pain. I squeezed her warm hand and told her I loved her very much, that we would be ok if she wanted to go, and that we’d take care of grandpa and each other.
Early the next morning, my mom called to tell me she had died, and I headed over to be with her and grandpa. Grandma was still in her bed, just as I had left her. On the way over I was afraid to see her, wondering how I would feel. We were so close all my life. But when I sat on the bed next to her, everything was different. My grandma’s spirit had left her body behind and there was nothing to do but get rid of it.
So strange to feel nothing holding the hand of a body that no longer held the woman I loved so much. Wherever she is, I know she heard me the day before and there was nothing else I needed to say to this…corpse. The ancients knew this. Why have we lost the knowledge?
And then there was this:
“Palimpsest seemed to be a perfect way of describing what I was beginning to learn at Laguna Honda: That underneath our scientific modern medicine was an earlier way of understanding the body – erased, to be sure, just a faint shadow of our consciousness, but active in our thoughts and desires, nonetheless.”
Palimpsest: writing material (such as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased
Humanity lived on this planet for thousands of years before modern science. We had ways of staying alive as best we could, things that did work and things that didn’t. Some of those things simply made us feel better about living and dying. Why do we believe we can just throw all that information out and rely on only the modern science of numbers, tests, and forms? Do we really believe that humanity lived in utter darkness, fumbling around, a miracle of survival, until a mere hundred or so years ago?
Like I said, I’m very much enjoying God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet, and I never would have heard of it if it weren’t for this new book club that I am GOING to GO to, whether my anxiety wants to or not. Have you heard of it? Read it? Have any thoughts you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
I love YOUR story about your dearly beloved grandma, and your final moments with her before her departure. It really doesn’t get any better than that, does it? And I love that you’re GOING to GO to the group in spite of yourself—and the good news is that you’ll all have something in common to make it easier—the book!