Just as I sat down and was mulling over the day’s news and the book I’m reading and the fact that my beloved teenager left her curling iron on when she left in a flurry for school and the stories in my head and the blank screen which awaits them… the doorbell rang.
It was my neighbor, whose knock usually involves neighborly things, who told me that they got a call last night, from Buffalo… The next words are unclear to me now, so shocked I was by his news, the only ones I remember like headlines, dark and final, hovering in the air above: asthma attack, dead. His beautiful daughter, just gone.
Death, I suppose, is the only thing that stops us. Ultimately and forever when it is ours, but even when it visits close by it steals us for an instant, as we too cease to breathe, our hearts stilled. The cacophony of our lives is quieted for a moment, as we remember that beneath it lies the one truth that none can deny, that life is a gift and in an instant it can end.
That lovely young woman, so full of life and hope, is devastatingly gone. Her father, bolstered up by the stoic strength of those left behind, makes plans, deals with the details of death, the only betrayer his eyes which cannot hide the pain, the glaze of loss. I wonder if he will ever sing again, his voice often wafting through the air on a summer’s night.
How is she doing? I ask, about his other daughter, then immediately follow that with What a stupid question… of course, of course, oh god I’m so sorry, flailing for words and unable to say much. I see that he is trying, so hard, to stay strong and I wipe my tears so as not to make it harder on him. He tells me of their plans, and I hug him tightly, assuring him he can count on us for the mail, the dog, anything you need, anything. How humbled I am, and helpless, knowing that all I can offer is my assistance with the pesky details, neighborly things. What can we do? What can we possibly do, except embrace them and then step back, arms ready to catch.
Reminders, always little reminders, of the fragility of us all.