I ought to know that death pays no heed to the natural order of life. I first learned this lesson nearly a decade ago when my husband Brett died at thirty-nine years old. Until then, I’d been relatively sheltered from calamity, at least among family.
Brett’s diagnosis severed that safe harbor, and his death–which was expected and even merciful–did nothing to thwart the shock and grief that followed for me and my young twins. For a time, we seemed unable to escape the path of incongruous losses. I would do anything in my power to prevent more sadness, but therein lay the dilemma: I had no such power.
The lessons of acceptance were learned, I felt sure. Not just in New York, but later, in Colorado, where my twins and I ventured in 2006. We came in search of breathing space.
Much to my naive disappointment, the fresh start did not exclude awful things happening to people we cared about as well as tragedy in the news.
In Denver I met and married Steve Saunders, who was also widowed with two children. Because loss exists on both sides, Steve and I had no choice but to welcome our first spouses and the lives and four children we created with them. The thin veneer of loss lies just beneath the pleasant surface of today.
With all this ripe life experience, I hardly expected to feel so unhinged upon learning that my closest friend from high school, Lauren, died last week after a long illness. She had a brain tumor just like my husband (albeit a different kind). I saw Lauren this past March and she was doing well. Look at us here in the cover photo laughing like the old days. We reminisced about first kisses, odd teachers, stealthy (and not so secretive) trips to New Haven for world famous pizza and to crash the occasional Yale mixer.
I hoped that Lauren would continue to defy her disease. She had everything to live for, if only she could.
In the midst of grieving Lauren’s untimely death, I’m reminded yet again that vulnerability is part of the human experience. To be vulnerable is to be alive; you can’t have one without the other. Knowing this doesn’t make life’s losses easier to bear; it just makes them real and expected.
How do you cope with vulnerability?