Voilà, I’m home now

October 28: Bringing maman’s body from Paris to Urt…The undertaker meets a “colleague” there…I walk a few steps…on one side of the square…bare ground, the smell of rain, the sticks. And yet, something like a savor of life (because of the sweet smell of the rain), the very first discharge, like a momentary palpitation.

October 29: How strange: her voice, which I knew so well, and which is said to be the very texture of memory (“ the dear inflection . . .”), I no longer hear. Like a localized deafness.

October 30: At Urt: sad, gentle, deep (relaxed).

November 1: Indeterminacy of the senses: one could just as well say that I have no feelings or that I’m given over to a sort of external, feminine (“ superficial”) emotivity, contrary to the serious image of “true” grief—or else that I’m deeply hopeless, struggling to hide it, not to darken everything around me, but at certain moments not able to stand it any longer and “collapsing.”

November 5: Sad afternoon. Shopping. Purchase (frivolity) of a tea cake at the bakery. Taking care of the customer ahead of me, the girl behind the counter says Voilà. The expression I used when I brought maman something, when I was taking care of her. Once, toward the end, half-conscious, she repeated, faintly, Voilà (I’m here, a word we used to each other all our lives). The word spoken by the girl at the bakery brought tears to my eyes. I kept on crying quite a while back in the silent apartment. That’s how I can grasp my mourning. Not directly in solitude, empirically, etc.; I seem to have a kind of ease, of control that makes people think I’m suffering less than they would have imagined. But it comes over me when our love for each other is torn apart once again. The most painful point at the most abstract moment . . .”

November 6: The comfort of Sunday morning. Alone. First Sunday morning without her. I undergo the week’s daily cycle. I confront the long series of times without her.

November 11: Solitude = having no one at home to whom you can say: I’ll be back at a specific time or who you can call to say (or to whom you can just say): voilà, I’m home now.

~ Roland Barthes, Mourning Diary

The day after his mother’s death in October 1977, the influential philosopher Roland Barthes began a diary of mourning. Taking notes on 330 index cards as was his habit, he reflected on a new solitude, on the ebb and flow of sadness, and on modern society’s dismissal of grief. Behind the unflagging mind, “the most consistently intelligent, important, and useful literary critic to have emerged anywhere” (Susan Sontag), lay a deeply sensitive man who cherished his mother with a devotion unknown even to his closest friends.”

Highly recommended. Find it at Amazon: Mourning Diary


  1. Grief – such a perfect echo of the desolation, pain, deepest of sorrows. I have been there with the loss of my parents. Voila

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Reminded me, Thank you dear Dave, hits me again. Love, nia
    Letter [from Proust] to Georges de Lauris, whose mother has just died (1907).

    “Now there is one thing I can tell you: you will enjoy certain pleasures you would not fathom now. When you still had your mother you often thought of the days when you would have her no longer. Now you will often think of days past when you had her. When you are used to this horrible thing that they will forever be cast into the past, then you will gently feel her revive, returning to take her place, her entire place, beside you. At the present time, this is not yet possible. Let yourself be inert, wait till the incomprehensible power . . . that has broken you restores you a little, I say a little, for henceforth you will always keep something broken about you. Tell yourself this, too, for it is a kind of pleasure to know that you will never love less, that you will never be consoled, that you will constantly remember more and more.” ♦

    (Translated, from the French, by Richard Howard.)

    Liked by 3 people

  3. A dose of reality. C. S.Lewis. did something similar, writing “A Grief Observed” after the death of his wife.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Grief made bearable by time but the heart never forgets.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I don’t think I can read this. But so appreciate the glimpse.

    I like the idea of diary on flash cards.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. They say we all grieve in our own way, but this, I think, we all have in common. ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This was a smack in the gut and heart, once again, dear David. This is of such beauty; poetic, I feel. And the responses, too (thank you, Nia). My parents (both…. I know how much of a gift that is) are with me still, yet frail and declining in their once-robust health. I feel sometimes that I’m living in two worlds. I try mightily to appreciate every. single. day. with them and take joy in that. And yet I know….
    Tears flowing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Such beautiful comments from everyone here. I am blessed to have both my parents still with me, but each time we speak, I feel the echo of an ache, knowing full well that this bond that is so intimately familiar cannot continue in its current form indefinitely. What does my life look like without my parents in it? I have no idea, and I dread the day I find out.

    Liked by 1 person

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