The Life of Death

Thumbnail Image





Ruotolo, Christina L

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


East Carolina University


"The Life of Death" is a creative nonfiction thesis in three parts. The purpose of this thesis is to explore and understand the importance of place in one's life, whether it's in relation to a job, after the loss of parents, or while looking back on childhood. It is a collection of nonfiction stories about my life told through flashbacks, and personal narration. It is a lyrical, moving journey that I take one memory at a time. The first essay, 'Sliding into Home' is set between late 2012 and 2013. Through personal narration, reflection and meditation the parallels between the importance of family, home and the sport of baseball, mainly the significance of home plate. During this journey home, I find out my mother has a rare, incurable cancer and she is given a limited amount of time before she will die. I find a way to come to terms with her diagnosis and move toward a grief I know will come. I use the game of baseball as a metaphor for my healing. The bat becomes an extension of the hand, the baseball another extension of self, family and home. All the pieces come together like a baseball player rounding the bases on the diamond-shaped field headed for a complete circuit. I use the game of baseball as a guide for my journey to the pre-grief stages of my mother's looming death. Like a baseball player not ready to give up the run, I am not ready to give up my mom. The second essay, 'The Landscape of Memory' is set in the fall of 2014, one year after my mother died, a few months after my father's sudden death, and two months after a miscarriage. It starts with a plan and ends with a trip across of the country to a writing and yoga retreat in search of healing and meditation. I use personal narration and reflection while navigating the initial stages of grief. Location plays a vital role in this essay, reminding me as the narrator, that grief cannot be boxed up and buried, but must be set free. My last essay, 'Losing Michelle,' is about the death of my friend. In this essay, I weave personal narration with flashbacks, while walking through a cemetery looking for her marker. It discusses my first experiences in death and grief. In preparation for my thesis, I continued to journal my memories, wrote and co-authored a nonfiction book, attended yearly writer's conferences, attended creative writing seminars, and began teaching college English. No matter what research avenue I selected, memories of my parents and death were already at the forefront of my writing. I researched the various stages of death by reading the widely popular nonfiction book, On Death and Dying, by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and explored the history of my hometown, Haw River, NC by reading the book, Down Along the Haw: The History of a North Carolina River by Anne Melyn Cassebaum. Before and after my mother's death, I educated myself on death in preparation of the inevitable. I dove into reading memoirs on death such as, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed and the famous The Last Lecture, by Professor Randy Pausch.