I live in a very small town in a very big city. It’s like Stepford inside of a New York borough. Everyone knows everyone else. And if they don’t, they’ve heard something about them. And, eventually, you hear things about someone … that ends up being you.
Death teaches you a lot about the living. It shows strength and beauty and the resilience of the human spirit. It reveals warts and weaknesses, yours and in others.
I learned quickly that death bleeds far beyond a lifeless body. Fences are torn down and others mended. Strangers become friends, and friends become strangers. I watched and finally understood what it means that death brings out the best, and the worst, in all of us. Until you stand in the vortex, you only hear the words. You don’t truly live them.
The days were filled with names, numbers and offers of help from people I barely knew and, some, not at all. Friends and family embraced each other, recognizing their universal loss and trying to understand the true depth of ours. Magic hands left their invisible touch, feeding the ebb and flow and preparing the house for its moment of grace. Accounts were set up and nameless, selfless donations received. Laughter, tears and the hum of life moved us through the days as an invisible web of support and emotion took form around us.
But in the dead of night I sifted through digital half-truths, a vicious game of telephone played by people hiding behind the anonymity of their screen names. Caught between the fog and fury of loss, I debated what to do. Join the online conversation I had discovered, politely correct the facts and subtly close down the conversation through shame? Or, drive over in my pajamas and hurl tear-laced obscenities for turning my loss into an opportunity for neighborhood stature?
I should have gotten in the car. The stories would have been worth it.
Death taught me how to live again, separating the past and the future, strength and weakness, opportunity and challenge, joy and contentment, an exhausted child and a child facing exhaustion far deeper. It taught me that grief is not erased in months or years and that sometimes a broken toy is so much more.
And it taught me that before I run half-naked down the street in a fit of crazy, I need to post it online first. At least then it will be accurate.