Ursula Hegi, is a wonderful contemporary author. Her short story "Freitod" from the collection Hotel of the Saints is one of my favorites. This is a touching story of a mother of two adult children who hides her diagnosis of terminal cancer from her children (she is also a widow). While spending her last vacation along Mexico's Baja peninsula, she elects to take her life by walking into the stiff currents along the coast in a well planned "accidental" death. This is a decision she has made thoughtfully considering the incurable disease she suffers and it is really about how she choose to live her life and how she chooses to die. She wants to protect her children from the truth of what she faces and the significance of her death. The German word "freitod" translates to "free death" as opposed to "selbstmord" which translates to suicide. This woman makes a distinction between the two, preferring to interpret her plan in a more favorable light (freitod) although the reader is allowed to pass judgment on this independently.
You're right; this is a sad tale. Why would I be blogging about this? Actually, what I love most in this story is a passage describing this woman's take on the depth of the love she has for her children. She says, " You love your children far more than you ever loved your parents , and--in that love, and in the recognition that your own children cannot fathom the depth of your love--you come to understand the tragic, unrequited love of your own parents." This one sentence resonates deeply with me and is the entire point of this story in my humble opinion.
Why am I writing about this now? It's because I am dancing between my elderly parents and my young adult children and asking the questions about love and loss and life and death. I agree with Ms. Hegi that a parent's love is truly unrequited. I find it in my parent's love for me and in my love for my children. How many times have I heard my mother tell me that she loves me and would lay her life down for me? How many times have I heard her tell me that until I had my own [children], I would never understand the depth of her love for me? Countless times. I believe her. I get it.