There are two kinds of people in the world: those who have already experienced profound loss and those who will.
I've been lucky so far in this life. My losses have been quiet goodbyes, gentle by most standards, the soft leavings of old age, cushioned by the generations between them and me. Secondhand losses.
After my grandfather died, and my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, I asked her if she was afraid of death. "Oh, honey," she said. "At my age, death is almost a friend. It's a story I read about every day in the paper."
Death is not always a friend — sometimes it is a thief, robbing us of our dearest treasures.
Earlier this month, I wrote about my greatest fear — a recurring nightmare I have that one of my children has died. I knew even as I wrote it that I was trampling on someone else's grief. Tragically, unbelievably, one of my fellow bloggers from the Silicon Valley Moms Group is living this nightmare right now, having lost her baby just two days after I posted my nightmares.
(November 11, 2007 - April 7, 2009)
I've never met Maddie's family, but so much of her story is familiar — difficult conception and pregnancy, traumatic, premature birth, eating issues, growing issues — but more importantly:
Her story may not be a long one, but it is a story worth knowing.
This loss, like so many others, was not a quiet one. When a child dies, we roar with the pain, the grief, the missed opportunities of a story barely started.
A writing friend, Cindy Fey, wrote beautifully about the sudden loss of her dear friend, a peer, a cohort, a man who was walking this life at the same time as her husband when his footsteps suddenly stopped. His premature death left a novella, not a full novel perhaps, but a story worth knowing.
Death is not always a friend — sometimes it is the harshest of spotlights, the cruelest of mirrors, shining stark light on our own mortality, leaving us gasping and keening.
Another dear friend has experienced more deaths in her family than anyone I know, whittling her immediate family down to a precious few, leaving her clear-eyed and unsentimental. Her losses are a series of short-stories and tall tales, an epic saga — a story worth knowing.
Death is not always a friend — sometimes it's a relentless clock, ticking off the lives of those we know and love as surely as it counts off the seconds of our individual lives — a never-ending death knell.
I know I am lucky — death has brushed by so closely that the hairs on the back of my neck still rise and tremble at the memory. In grateful acknowledgement of those near misses, in tribute to Maddie and Eric and Jill's family, and in celebration of April as National Poetry Month, let's remember that no life is just a paragraph, but a full story worth telling:
since feeling is firstby ee cummings
since feeling is firstwho pays any attentionto the syntax of thingswill never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a foolwhile Spring is in the world
my blood approves,and kisses are a better fatethan wisdomlady i swear by all the flowers. Don't cry- the best gesture of my brain is less thanyour eyelids' flutter which says
we are for each other: thenlaugh, leaning back in my armsfor life's not a paragraph
and death i think is no parenthesis
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