Nina’s Memento Mori
Mathias B. Freese
Paperback: 148 pages
Publisher: Wheatmark (September 24, 2019)
Near the end of Nabokov’s Lolita, Humbert makes an honest admission: “[A]nd it struck me…that I simply did not know a thing about my darling’s mind.” That line sums up the isolate game of memorializing a deceased loved one, which is the basic tension in Nina’s Memento Mori, an elegy to Mathias Freese’s lost wife. The profound responsibility of answering the question “Who was Nina?” is left to the lone memoirist:
I can say or write anything I want about her…There is much writerly power in that. I am the executor of her probate in all things now. She is mine now in ways she could not be when alive. I am the steward of her memory.
In a series of short chapters that are titled with terms from a film script such as: fade in and close up, the author gives numerous life lessons about loving – about living – about dying, and about grief.
About all of the things that make up the complex human condition.
There were many places where I highlighted a passage and this one about fathers was most poignant.
Writing about an experience he had with his boyhood friend who had just told him about seeing his father having to labor so hard at a job unloading crates of fruit onto a hand truck. “That was his father’s job all day long. When he told me of this he began to choke up, and, as I look back, I see Willy Loman, capitalism, the French Revolution, Rousseau, the indelible unfairness and cruelty of a marketplace run by men with the retread rubber heart of a Donald Trump. Arthur Miller got it right with Loman. My father worked in a pawn shop, and I once saw his boss tear into him. I felt time stand still as they both looked at me, and I looked at them, knowing that something was awry and awful between men, and between men & sons. Indeed, low men..”
And another memorable quote: “I was not fathered. a tragic experience, often unrecognized until later in life when we become aware that we have experienced a great cheat – cosmic bite out of the time we have.”
This book is as much about looking at our own mortality as we age as it is an elegy for Nina, the woman that the author was blessed to have in his life for two years. At one point in the writing, he stresses that he has written this book to honor her memory but also as a way to let her know more about him because they had so few days together. It is also a profound statement of all that is lost when a person dies. The things that were important to that person never mean the same thing to anybody else.
The title, Nina’s Memento Mori , refers to the fact that he considers himself her artifact: “I am grateful that she found in me some measure of peace and rest before she was secreted away by the galactic grim reaper”
This is a book that is well worth the read for those insights as well as reading a lovely love letter to the woman that he loved so late in his life. I highly recommend it.
MATHIAS B. FREESE is a writer, teacher, and psychotherapist who has authored seven books. His I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust won the Beverly Hills Book Award, Reader’s Favorite Book Award, and was a finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards, the Paris Book Festival, and the Amsterdam Book Festival. In 2016, Tesserae: A Memoir of Two Summers, his first memoir, received seven awards. The following year his second memoir appeared, And Then I Am Gone.
Find all his books on his AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE
That’s all from me, folks. I hope your weekend starts off well and is filled with fun, friends and family. Be safe. Be happy