Yes, Roz, Death Is Not Pleasant

When The New York Times published an early excerpt from Roz Chast’s Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT?, I immediately rushed to my computer and ordered pre-publication copies. I could not wait to read it, and I thought everyone else would want to read it too, so I ordered ten copies.

Does anyone want a copy? I only found two people who wanted to read it, and one of them was a chaplain, the other the medical director in a retirement home. Yesterday, I offered one of my remaining copies to a new friend. She was pleased when she saw the cover and the name of Roz Chast, but when I told her what it was about, she pushed Roz Chast right back on my coffee table.

The first time I read “Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT?” I thought it the most terrifying book I’ve ever read. Chast’s memoir, in cartoons, of course, describes putting her parents in a retirement home and watching them slowly die. It put right in front of me all the humiliating details of death that David and I knew were coming. I did not want to know about them, we both hoped desperately that he would die in his sleep to avoid all this. About six months before David died, I started finding the book really funny. Really funny, because it is ALL true. That being the case, what can you do but laugh?

David and I put a lot of effort into the death-deniers, and we made quite a bit of progress. David kept telling them he was going to die, and I kept crying. They thought I was hysterical and needed some psychoanalysis, but I do not let that stop me. I continue to grieve, and David continued to die in public, in front of everyone. Finally, after the funeral, everyone who didn’t talk to me while David was dying, hugged me. I had become an honest woman.