Grief

Once again, I’m going to try a slightly more focused entry. This morning I woke up listening to the news on NPR, and of course my state and the next closest state apparently saw new COVID-19 records (number of new cases and number of hospitalizations respectively, if I remember correctly), so my state’s Department of Education is apparently working on guidelines to allow schools to be open this fall. There was a plan mentioned for schools to have some students attend in the morning and some in the afternoon, which sounds logistically complicated and makes me glad I’m not currently in elementary or high school and don’t have any kids. After the local headlines, the national news started, and it was more of the same- the Trump administration wants schools to be open in the fall, but is not really doing anything about the ongoing pandemic (or if the federal government is responding, I think they could do and need to be doing more). This ongoing disaster (for lack of any better word) successfully made me angry for most of the rest of the afternoon before I went to work and got to briefly forget about the disasterous pandemic response by the richest nation in history and the most powerful nation on the planet.

Alright, deep breath. Brief digression aside, now for the real reason for this entry.

I had a friend from high school pass away this past weekend. She was a couple years younger than me, but we were in a lot of the same activities and we were close when I was in high school. I don’t remember the last time I talked to her or saw her. I think I saw on Snapchat that I had sent her something a couple months ago (though I don’t remember what), and I had sent her a funny screenshot of a tweet in a Facebook message back in late 2019, so clearly it had been a while. We exchanged birthday wishes earlier this year (her birthday was in February and mine is in April), but “happy birthday!” “thanks!” does not a substantial conversation make. I imagine the last time I saw her in person might have been a couple years ago, possibly at my sister’s high school graduation in 2018 (or my brother’s in 2014).

It’s probably futile, but I wish I had talked to her more recently. I’ve heard that it might have been suicide, but I’m not really sure what to think. Unfortunately, as soon as I heard on July 5th that she had died, I immediately started wondering what the cause was. Since she was only 27 and, as far as I know, in reasonably good physical health (or at least, no terminal illnesses), my mind immediately went to suicide, fluke health problem (heart attack, stroke, some other previously unknown health issue) or possibly some kind of 4th of July related accident (alcohol, a drunk driver, fireworks, who knows). While I don’t remember ever really talking about our respective mental health with her, I could believe it if depression was something she struggled with. I learned recently that she had apparently made a previous suicide attempt in high school, and I don’t remember if I had known that.

I feel bad for her family, friends, and coworkers, but the whole community has been mourning from what I’ve seen on Facebook. For that matter, probably both the town she grew up in and the town where she had been teaching elementary school the last couple years since getting her bachelor’s degree are mourning.

There’s a memorial service Friday, but as my mom pointed out when I was talking to her  the other day, it’s probably going to be crowded since my late friend touched so many lives and a pandemic may not be the best time to go to a crowded memorial service. I hadn’t really planned on going anyway, since it would involve driving for 10 hours and I don’t like funerals, but I did feel a little better after Mom pointed that out (and maybe it was just talking about it and Mom being sympathetic).

A couple days ago, after work in the wee hours of one morning I found her obituary on the local funeral home website. When I looked the next morning, I thought it was interesting to see a “better” obituary- instead of just a picture of some flowers, it was a picture of her (and a guinea pig), and the obituary was a little more personalized. Now that I think about it, I can’t even remember the specifics, but I think the original obituary might have just mentioned that she had passed away, where she had gone to school and been teaching, and that she was survived by her family, while the improved obituary also included some additional detail, including where she had worked and gone to school , and mentioned that she was survived by family and friends, including her friend’s young children who will receive the memorial as a college fund. The improved obituary also mentioned that there would be a memorial bench at the school she had taught at, and for some reason earlier tonight at work I was thinking about that.

The whole time, since I found out she died, I’ve though it seems weird that she’s gone. It’s one thing if someone is old or sick (like my ex-girlfriend’s grandmother who died of pancreatic cancer in her 50s while we were dating or my paternal grandparents currently in their early 90s), but for someone to die so unexpectedly at such a young age  is tragic (and that barely seems adequate).

I suppose the passage of time will help, but it’s still weird to imagine seeing her name on a bench. It seems like cognitive dissonance, but knowing “she’s younger than me” and having to adjust that to “she’s younger than me, and now she’s gone” is weird.

I was thinking earlier about what it’d be like if there was a memorial trail or race for my brother who likes to run, and I can hardly imagine. I can only hope his baby that’s due next month can worry about that in like 80 years, or that I don’t have to worry about it for at least another 70 years.

Lighter note aside, I can still hardly believe she’s gone.

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