Good and bad: Listening to music so engaging that I’m completely unable to write coherently. Finishing a wonderful book with two hours left on one’s outbound flight.
This week takes me to a large westerly near-coastal city. A funeral. A young man not of my acquaintance but close to a young man who works for me. Cause of death totally unknown, unexplained, and unexplainable. I have explained to my own children only that I am going and why I am going, steering the conversation away from why and how and what happened to this very healthy young man in his sleep. We can understand car accidents—a risk whenever we get on the road—and drug or alcohol poisoning. Cancer, so tragic, but it’s a disease and we can put it in a category in our brains and file it away*. Sudden strokes, clots of all stripes, unknown heart defects discovered in autopsy: these are frightening and shocking but can be processed and understood.
Unknown cause of death cannot be understood. We cannot find a way to understand healthy young people going to bed and not waking up.
The brevity of this life has, as such, been brought to my attention recently. Everything I could be doing is newly automatically prioritized A, B, C (a la Covey), and I’m doing a lot more A stuff and a lot less extraneous crap. Biking with the kids to the bookstore for special evening story time gets moved to the top of the list. Tidying the rec room is definitely a C activity. I find myself having more patience with the kids, more willingness to sit and listen. Things I had been putting on the Someday When I Get Around To It list are moving up. Others are sliding off; not even enough value to keep them on the maybe list.
I think I want to move writing back up the list of things to do, but writing hasn’t made that automatic leap upward. Maybe because I already spend a lot of time in front of a computer or because I continue to have pain in my hands. Maybe I’m not really a writer, or maybe my writing energy is being sapped during the work day. I can tell you that I have a renewed interest in beauty. I don’t really know what this means other than to say that it’s not about personal grooming or fashion. It’s about taking a run (jog/walk) down by the river and spotting a turtle on a log (word of advice: they will swim away if you cluck at them like they’re cats). It’s about the way the light hits the tops of the trees after dinner. It’s the look in your kids’ eyes when they’re soaking wet and covered with grass after playing in the sprinkler with friends. It’s honesty and kindness between friends, and it’s a warm conversation between strangers.
It’s making sure the people around you know that you’re standing behind them, acknowledging grief and sharing warmth.
Grief is a dark, dark place. I can be a tiny star to serve as a reminder of the sun.