In undergrad, I once took a class titled "Death in Literature". It was one of my favorite classes. We studied the classics, "Hamlet", "Death of a Salesman", "Death in Venice". We delved not just in death, but the conditions of life that leads us there.
Today, Soleil saw a funeral. We were passing a cemetery and she saw the cars. She asked about them and I told her it was a funeral. She asked what a funeral was. We discussed how it is the way that people say goodbye to a person who has died before their body is put in the cemetery. She thoughts about it for a bit and then wanted to know if people had to say goodbye then, or could they visit later.
This made me think about life and death. Earlier this week, a woman died when the Connector Tunnel lost 4 3-ton ceiling tiles. In a blink of the eye, she was gone. Becky’s husband died quickly too. He was out in Fort Bliss and his caravan was hit by a train going 60 MPH at an unmarked crossing. We always wonder if he knew. Did he have the "flash before your eyes" or did things just stop?
In 1994, I dropped Dr. Jay (before he was Dr. Jay) at his house for Thanksgiving. He had just had a serious hockey injury to the head, and nobody wanted him to drive home alone. So I drove him to Cleveland and then myself onto Buffalo. It was a bit sober because he had a bad injury, his cousin had just been diagnosed with MS, and there was one other thing that I can’t remember at the moment.
As I left, a snow was falling. I got stuck on a hill and my car (Emma) started to slide down the hill, backwards and sideways. Two plow guys saw me and helped me get up the hill just as a car came speeding over it. The other car almost hit the guys who were helping me and Emma. They swore at the guy and I was shaky. If I had not been moved, I would have been nailed by that car.
I got home in 5 hours, much longer because of the snow. When I got there, I had enough time to figure out dinner and we decided on Pizza Hut and were getting ready when the phone ran. It was Jay. "Nance?"
"yes, how are You? I am home safe, but that hill nearly killed me"
"really? Tell me"
so I relayed the story
"Thank G-d you’re okay. Luna died in a car accident today"
His aunt, his Dad’s sister, the mom of the cousin with MS was driving the dogs to the kennel so they could come to Cleveland for Thanksgiving. No one is sure what happened. Either she got distracted by the dogs, or the truck got distracted, but the driver’s side of her car collided with the driver’s side of a truck on a curve.
Mercy flight was called in. Uncle Dave got to see her before she died.
I don’t think any of us have ever gotten over this. Her second youngest daughter still won’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Her oldest took over the mom role of the family. Her youngest son is full of anger, and I don’t know if he will ever lose it. He has Fragile X and his mental abilities leave him at about 16 trapped in a 32 year old’s body.
I thought about Soleil trying to grapple with death and life today. I wanted to just tell her that none of us ever understand. I will never understand why Corey died. Why Renee died. Why children have to die.
I understand death at the end of old age. That I can get. But not the others…
Not even in books sometimes.