The Art of Falling Down and Getting Back Up

James Deagle
5 min readMar 7, 2022
The author with his mother, circa 1973. Deagle family photo (detail).

By early September 2021, I had been feeling like William the Conqueror. I was months into a fitness and dietary regime that saw me continuously shedding pounds, and getting almost within striking distance of my goal weight. Physically and mentally, I felt like I had energy and self-discipline I had never known. Self-improvement had become a compulsion, seemingly with a will and momentum of its own. In short, it felt like I had reprogrammed myself in a way that simply eliminated negative habits and imprinting from my inner algorithms.

And then I got the phone call that my mother was in the hospital after suffering a stroke that left her in a helpless and uncommunicative state. As humorist Allen Saunders once observed, and as John Lennon would slightly paraphrase decades later, “Life is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans.”

As of that phone call, my time was taken up with driving my father to and from the hospital, while also trying to keep my children on track with their own daily routines. As for my mother, things were looking worse with each passing day. I won’t go into details here except to say that there were mounting complications, particularly with keeping her adequately nourished, that left us as a family facing the ultimate painful decision. As the doctor had said, for my mother there was simply no coming back from this — the only merciful option was to take her off life support.

So we decided to let her go, and after almost a week of stubbornness on her part, she was gone.

Through all of this, in those moments alone behind the wheel, I found solace in Kris Kristofferson’s album, This Old Road, which had now become even more of a source of gravel-voiced comfort and commiseration. In particular, the title track was resonating with me in a new way, as I couldn’t help but hear it from my father’s perspective at a time when he was saying goodbye to the woman who had been his true love and best…

James Deagle

I like to write about life and make music.