I choose this famous caption from Francis Scott Fitzgerald to head a post on woe and mourning -and frustration; and bitterness- because it qualifies very well the person I’ve lost.
In fact, Scott Fitzgerald was not always a pessimist as so many of his writings about failure show; and, just today, I’ve come across this quotation from him (of which I ignore the precise provenance) :
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over again.”
All right. My sister did it several times and always succeeded, and could feel truly proud of herself…, until some bad blow of fortune or even calamity fell upon her, pushing her backwards to be again, somehow, someone she didn’t want to be. But she had the strength and the courage to start over again, and again… Eventually, she became a most respected model of fortitude for all who had the good luck to know her. She was a beautiful soul in a beautiful body, ruled by a beautiful mind. Many thought she was blessed and told her so, especially when she kept the most charming smile on earth through thick and thin. Moreover, her demeanour was beautiful too and she never lost the lesser opportunity to help other people as far as she was able to -even during her worst times.
Not long ago, she overcame a severe depression after breaking a relationship, to emerge stronger and fuller of love than ever before; more beautiful than ever, in her late thirties: a true princess! – And just then, she got ill. Badly ill, but this did not prevent her from initiating a new relationship with a loving and lovely person, and fall truly in love, and become engaged; excited for her next marriage and clear prospects of a much deserved brand-new homely life. Of course, she fought her illness bravely. More than anybody else I’ve ever known, by the way. She was going to start over once more… Who could doubt it? – And then, in spite of all efforts and determination to abide, she died all of a sudden, less than a year since she was diagnosed with her lung disease; just two months after getting formally engaged. – She had not time even to say goodbye properly to her loved ones. She just fell in a coma and faded out.
Maybe she was blessed -or not-, maybe she was damned -or not-… But I think now that Scott Fitzgerald saw it clearer when writing about frustration and failure than in his encouraging words now and then -like the few ones above (nice as they sound).
And to me, Shakespeare (among others, but he’s unsurpassable) had it even clearer most of the time. Amazingly and admirably clear in hundreds upon hundreds of lines all about his plays. Some are so brilliant and so sharp and poignant as to drill very deep in our minds and make us fear, very seriously, that they tell the sheer truth:
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
[‘Macbeth’; Act V, Scene V]
” […] Therefore, betake thee
To nothing but despair. A thousand knees
Ten thousand years together, naked, fasting,
Upon a barren mountain, and still winter
In storm perpetual, could not move the gods
To look that way thou wert.”
[‘The Winter’s Tale’; Act III, Scene II]