My former business partner used to say this—“August is a heavy month”. His father died in August, and he was not able to make it to the funeral. August also used to be a slow month in our practice, during which we usually made less money than we wanted (and often needed), so it was logically explained away by this “heaviness”.
Other than those five crazy years with him, during which we had a saying, if not an actual solution, for every eventuality, I am not sure I noticed a particular problem with August. I got married in August—not because of any particular significance, but simply because a hall was available, and friends who introduced me to my husband also got married in August, in the early part of the month, and returned from their honeymoon in the later part of it. And so there is something to celebrate during this heavy month—as of this writing, I am still married to my first husband.
Translated from the original Russian, though, the word can mean anything from the physical or emotional heaviness to heaviness of sorrow, pain, grief. August is a sorrowful month. I am not sure if there are any statistics on what month is the deadliest. I am not sure I want to know. If I just search my memory, the only person I can think of who died in August is Joe Dassin, the beautiful French singer of my childhood. He was 41 in the August of 1980. Fun fact: when I was in labor with my second child, I, for reasons passing understanding, needed to listen to Joe Dassin’s song “À toi”. We brought the CD to the hospital, and my husband had to continuously replay it. Joe’s voice—and that specific song, no other, not “Les Champs-Élysées”, not “Siffler sur la colline”, not “Et si tu n’existais pas”—soothed labor pains. True story!
But this past August has been a tough one. I am glad to see the backside of it. I suffered three losses, two actual deaths and an emptying of my nest—neither of which I have been able to process yet; a couple of physical injuries—I am going to lose that nail after all ( the real one), plus a fall that can only be called good because there is only a flesh wound, but still, I missed a couple of weeks of running at the height of training season; and of course, there is that ever present, ever looming, ever unendurable—work stress.
Another phrase difficult to translate from Russian is one my mother used to describe this state of being. It is literally translated as “loss of strength”. I used Google translate, and it came up as “prostration”. Prostration? We do that in church! “Collapse” seems slightly more accurate, but way too dramatic. I would say there is a certain loss of strength, to be sure, but more of a loss of the mind-heart-body connection. The mind is going through the motions (especially during the work day). The heart is hurting. The body is parked on the couch. The body is fairly useless when not motivated by the heart.
But finally, as we also say back in the Old Country, “hope dies last”. I hear it in the voice of one of our dearly departed from this August. I heard him say it at a family gathering quite some many years ago, and whenever I say it to myself, I hear him and see him in my mind’s eye. And that memory-to-mind-to-heart connection is something, is it not? Yes, Sorrow floats and is a short distance away; and wisdom comes in unexpected ways…
 It came out in 1976. My son was born 25 years later.
 You should have heard me humming Joe’s “Il faut naître à Monaco” when I visited Monaco almost two years ago. The reference was lost on everyone around me, especially all the poor unfortunate souls that heard me sing, but I enjoyed it! Ah, Joe, you left your mark on this world…
 John Irving, “Hotel New Hampshire”