Yesterday evening, right around dusk, as I was readying Sophie for bed, I received the call that my dear friend Anna had passed. She was only 28. My mind swirled with memories of her. She had a fantastic sense of humor, and most of my memories of her involve laughter. She was full of life. She had a strong, contagious spirit and a smile for everyone. She was authentic: she meant every bit of the positive words she preached. Unfortunately, she suffered in her illness. She was honest and let us see those hard parts, but she also made it easy for us, as she never stopped joking, laughing, sending out words of wisdom about leading a healthy life. She was made of better stuff than I.
The dog was barking. I thought the mail had come, so I grabbed Sophie and walked outside. Fire trucks lined my street. Lights were flashing and Sophie was repeating “no, no, no.” I went to the mailbox and grabbed the mail and the truck in front of the box hit its horn loudly. This woke me from my trance. Hello, Naomi! The neighbor’s house was on fire.
I looked around and all up and down the street there were fire trucks and ambulances, and fire fighters were climbing the roof of the neighbor’s house, doing what they had to do to put the fire out. There was a lot of smoke. All the neighbors on the street were outside, staring at the fire, pointing and talking, speculating about what had happened. The neighbor across the street was waving me over and asking if I was okay. I looked back at our house, and at the proximity to the fire. It was close, but we were fine.
So much loss. I remember when my friend Anna told me they had found a tumor in her leg, and it never crossed my mind that she would ultimately die from it. I thought it was a terrible, nasty thing to have to endure, but I saw a long life ahead of her. I was wrong. Last month, my two step-daughters lost their grandfather. He went in for a surgery, and told us all he would be out in a few days. He never came back. He was not done living yet either, and now the girls are missing their grandfather, who was very involved in their life. We also lost my grandmother last month. She had lived a long, full, amazing life, and, like Anna, she made it easy for us, even though she suffered in the end as well. I am grateful she was able to meet Sophie. The world won’t be the same without her.
I believe I must have been lost in all of this and so I was unable to properly process this last unfortunate event – my neighbor’s house burning. Too surreal. When we finally went back inside, our house smelled of smoke – a smell that persists this morning and that I imagine will take some time to fade completely. But this is life – this loss and destruction and all the things that seem unjust and unfair. Our forefathers knew it better than we do today, as we live in protective bubbles, safe from the weather, predators, and in many ways, safe from truly feeling the loss of those we love. With countless distractions, there are endless ways to remove ourselves from the pain. I don’t think this is doing anything good for our species. I, for one, plan to let myself feel the pain of the loss, even as I celebrate their lives and rejoice that they lived. Our universe is missing them, I am missing them, but so long as I remember, they will remain immortal. Even if it hurts for months, weeks, years, I will feel it. I am tired of all these distractions anyway. They wear on my soul.
And this is life. Nothing is certain. Security is an illusion. Pain is real. Loss is real. Suffering is real. None of these things can be avoided. The thing that keeps us going, the thing that saves us, is that happiness, growth, gain, love … all of these are also very real, and if we are lucky, we will get an abundance of all of those things as well, which we will appreciate all the more for knowing how to hurt and suffer.
This post may seem sad. I guess it is. But it's not all sad. These people that we lost were important and they led good lives and they will be missed and they will be remembered. And the neighbors are okay and no one was hurt. And honestly, it is okay to feel sad sometimes. It really is.