11 November 2008

Without You: a Memoir of Love, Loss and the Musical Rent

"What? I thought that this was a blog about literature...isn't he some actor on Broadway? He was in that one show...what's it called...Rent, right?"

Yes. He is an actor on Broadway--an AMAZING actor, singer and playwright on Broadway. He is also, as most do not know, an author. His brother, Adam Rapp, is an author and is more well-known in the literary world. Anthony has only written one book, Without You: a Memoir of Love, Loss and the Musical Rent. I still have about twenty pages left, and have for quite some time. Basically, I can't stand for it to end. It is one of the most beautifully written memoirs I've ever read. Don't take my word for it; here are some of my favourite parts.

As they were working on Rent, Jonathon Larson brought in a friend of his, Cy O'Neal to talk about the organization Friends in Deed. The scenes depicting the Life Support group in Rent were based on this group, so Jonathon felt it was necessary for them to grasp the concept of the real organization.

* "Well," Cy began, "at Friends, we come from the point of view that, in life, there are no accidents. It's all okay. There is nothing really ever wrong. Everything in life is exactly the way that it should be, very simply because that's the way it is. There is no other way that it can be."
Intrigued and stirred up, I raised my hand and asked, "If you're saying you come from the point of view that nothing's ever wrong, that everything's always okay, what do you do with anger and sadness and grief when something bad happens?"
"There's nothing wrong with grief. It's an entirely appropriate response. Of course we feel grief. The trouble is, in our culture, there isn't always a lot of permission for people to grieve. And so we think that we shouldn't go through it, and we stifle it down, because it's not allowed. And that's when we get into trouble."

This is by far the most real and devastating descriptions of death that I have ever encountered. Anthony's mother died moments before his flight left New York to go home. He asked his aunt to leave the body so that he could have a chance to say goodbye.

* My hand gripped the doorknob and quickly closed the door behind me. A sound began to emerge from my throat, from my gut, from my chest, a moan I had never heard myself make, a low sound, a horrible, frightening sound, and though I had already shed so many tears, there were fresh ones, streaming down my face, uncontrolled, unbidden, wet and wet and wet, and there was Mom, or rather there was her body, her shell, beautifully laid there on the bed, in a simple white nightgown, under her simple white quilt, a simply white rose resting on her chest. It was clear that she had been tenderly settled there by Robert or Terry, and I was so grateful that they had taken such care, and I was grateful to get the chance to see her one more time, and at the same time, I was more certain than I had ever been that we are not contained in our bodies; there was nothing left of my mother in that shell on that bed, that impossibly pale body that only slightly resembled Mom. It was far, far too pale and still and, well--dead, yes dead, she was dead, dead dead dead--and I would have given anything at all to have one more chance, one more moment to tell her I loved her--even though I knew she knew it--and to hold her hand, and then I reached over and touched her hand, and my fingers felt her cold and rubbery dead dead dead skin, and there was no life in that skin, no sense of her, no possible way that all of who she was--all of the love she had, all of the life she lived, all of her mistakes and all of her energy and all of her friends' and family's love for her--there was no way that all of that was contained in that body, that empty dead body.
Then the door opened and Adam poked his head in. "Are you okay?" he said.
I wanted to say of course I'm not okay I'm not at all okay I'm in agony I hate this more than anything I've ever hated before in my life, and all of that time I was waiting for her to die, all of that time we spent laughing about it and hoping for this moment, all of that time, I would give it all back ten thousand times over to not have to go through this right now, what I'm going through right now, I hate myself for ever having said or thought those things, no I'm not okay. But instead I caught my breath and said, "Yeah."