Wednesday, April 27, 2011


pencil on paper
by Judy Westergard

I was listening this morning to a Minnesota Public Radio broadcast on what the future will look like. Physicist Michio Kaku was Kerri Millelr's guest. They discussed some riveting ideas. Of particular interest to me were Kaku's predictions about the brain and technology, especially a discussion about the possibility of downloading the information held in the brain of someone who is about to die. An odd subject, you say? Let me explain the backstory of my interest. It's taken me years to find--what...the strength? the emotional distance? to talk about it. Here goes. Several years ago, after two-and-a-half weeks spent in a coma in an ICU at a local hospital, my father died. I remember the ensuing days as a surge of oddly yoked activities: funeral preparations, family notifications, all the chores involved in ending a school year, and of course, helping my mother through the final steps that would make her a widow in the eyes of the legal system. Lots to do, not much time for quiet talks. Three or four weeks later, Mom, my brother and I and our spouses faced the inevitable. The others were working downstairs while Mom and I went through Dad's belongings. Except for my occasional question about some particular item, she and I worked in their bedroom in silence until, unexpectedly, she turned to me and said, "I found a note in your dad's bureau drawer." Her face contorted. The look in her eyes spoke of pain. Can silence get loud? I sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for her to go on. "My name was on the envelope. It said, 'If you're reading this, I've already died.'" She paused...a long time. I, usually so ready with words, couldn't speak. Then she added, "I tore it up. I put it in the garbage. I'll never tell anyone what was in it." Why did she seem to blame herself for what she had read? Why wouldn't she tell me what was in it? And if she was determined that I never know the contents of that note, why did she tell me of its existence My mother has been gone nine years. To this day, when I want to torment myself, I bring back this memory. How I wish I could have downloaded what she knew.