A family friend died of a heart attack this morning, and I stared in shock at the message on my husband’s phone, wondering why he didn’t just push the back button and undo what could only be a grave cosmic blunder.
When my grandmothers died in relatively quick succession a few years ago, I felt a certain insulation from their deaths. The wide buffer of ocean and age between us provided a tender finality, and while I mourned them, I didn’t begrudge their passing. But this… an artist who chose a lifestyle of backbreaking sacrifice to protect someone without the mental capabilities to understand, a husband and father who helped create one of the most loving family units we’ve ever seen, a generous soul who opened his home wide to us many times… this? We were laughing in his kitchen just a few months ago. I know how cliché this question will sound, but it’s the only one I can articulate right now—How can he possibly be gone?
Dan took the first train out once we heard the news, and in the mad dash to get him to the station on time, my shock crystalized into the clarity of action. I couldn’t stop thinking about our friends’ wife, a dear-hearted woman suddenly left with more than any one person could be expected to handle, and I was grateful that at the very least, I could send my husband to help ease her burden. I would have gotten on the train myself if not for Natalie’s last-day-of-school program tomorrow. Even so, I spent the entire afternoon baking, for her, mixing a helpless sense of compassion into the dough and hoping that on some metaphysical level, this weight on my heart is weight off of hers.
It’s late now, and my perspective has gone fuzzy again. I don’t know if I will be able to hand over the bread in person tomorrow, and if I do, what I could possibly say to steady a world flipped so unexpectedly on end. I don’t know how to break the news to my girls who loved our friend like an uncle. I don’t know how to pack for a funeral that I just want someone somewhere to undo. There is so much I don’t know about processing death, and I keep wishing to wake up safely back in our old reality where I didn’t have to come to grips with this. More than anything, I wish that our friend could wake up.
For a solid two minutes before I shot this video, he had the girls convinced a bird was loose in his living room. The girls have their own bird whistles now, and I know they’re remembering our friend (blue shirt, kind eyes) every time our house fills with warbles.