mtDNA Takes your Breath Away

I have spent most of this week trying to be silent, and trying not to think, as much as I could.

This has been a strange experience for me. But in the exhaustion of going around and around and around: what is in the here and now, what is coming, what will be, I finally threw up a stop sign. Truthfully, I finally threw up my hands. The thoughts and the feelings and emotions come up and around, and buzz through my brain exactly like a broken record player, leaving me thinking "wasn't I just here?".

I was reading an article in Macleans Magazine a few weeks ago, it was about Wayson Choy's book Not Yet. It was the headline: No Wife! No Son! No Daughter! You Die Alone.

The words were those that Wayson heard as he lay in that place between life and death. They are, I think, the questions we all ask. I have long maintained that no one comes into this world alone, and no one should leave it alone. I have been privileged to sit with the dying. Not just with Gabriel, but with others. A lady, some years ago, as I did palliative pet therapy. Maggie and I sat with her those last 2 hours, holding her hand. There were no words, just the presence of another person. A last companion to stay on earth while she left it. A duty to those around us, to hold their hand and wish them God Speed.

I read the article about Not Yet, and the title struck me upside the head. Without children, I will die alone. Now, perhaps not alone, in the sense that Mr. Spit may or may not be with me, others may or may not be with me, but when I am gone, there will be nothing left of me in the world. I will be gone in a way that those with children never can be.

Years ago, my mother was ill. Ill enough that dying became something we were talking about. I was about 16, and learning about mitochondrial DNA. Our mitochondrial DNA is living memory, matrilineal record. Unlike the rest of our DNA, that is a mix of both parents, our mitochondrial DNA is only from our mother's. Think on that for just a second. Look at your children. Deep within their cells, deep where we cannot easily see, you reside. Just you.

Within our cells, there resides the stories of who we are, and who we were. Within me there resides the story of my mother falling off the roof as she waited for Santa Claus, a pet skunk named Miss Pew. The story of my grandmother's china that sits in my china cabinet. Deep within my cells cries a reminder - remember where you have come from. Who we come from is part of who we are.

And when I am gone from this world, that memory will be gone. No one will hold it in their body. I will be truly gone. The detritus of my life, my grandmother's china, it will remain, but it is not me. Bits of stuff do not contain living memory.

No Sons. No Daughters, you die alone.
Takes your breath away.