The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Death, be not proud...

Carla died ten years ago. The words don't really make any sense, as if the reality they describe was simply too odd to be true, but it is reality, nonetheless. The mind rebels against that reality, the mind rebels at the idea that someone as intensely alive as Carla could be dead at all, much less gone for all this time. Some people are like that. When the war photographer Robert Capa died in Indochina in 1954, his friend Ernest Hemingway wrote that Capa was so much alive that it was a long hard day to think of him as dead. Carla was like that. And now it has been ten years.

I hadn’t realized it was the tenth anniversary until a few days afterwards. Time passes and the slow accumulation of days the one after the other goes by so slowly that we pay no real attention to it.  There is always some new thing we must attend to: we must pay the telephone bill or get the car inspected or buy a gallon of milk because the last gallon is almost gone and there won’t be anything to put on our breakfast cereal tomorrow morning.  We worry about getting to work on time or how to get the kids to football practice or whether we can afford a new roof for the house. We wonder where we’ll go on vacation this year or whether to buy one of those big plasma televisions or how much candy to get for the trick or treaters on Halloween or how long to cook the Thanksgiving turkey or what to get the kids for Christmas, and then, before we know it, the New Year is here. And so it goes, one thing after another, one year after another, until it has been ten years since Carla died.

Time heals all wounds.  This is the comforting nostrum we tell ourselves in the wake of any great loss.  If we wait long enough, we tell ourselves, the pain will go away, and perhaps for people like me, the friends of the family, that is true. Time numbs the loss for us, so that we can go on with our lives, so much so that the tenth anniversary can come and go without our realizing the significance of the date.  Carla’s family does not have that. The suddenness of her death, the tragic loss so someone so young, vibrant, and talented as she was leaves a ragged scar on the souls of those who loved her most, the sharp edges of grief keeping the wound from ever completely healing over. 

I have not been to her grave since the funeral. I suppose it just never occurred to me to go. I am sure that everything is now as it was then: the white Dutch Reformed Church and the old graveyard behind the church, with its old and pitted gravestones marking the passing of the generations, the small flags marking the graves of local boys who died in faraway places like Gettysburg, Omaha Beach, and Khe Sanh, the long valley with its neat white farmhouses stretching away towards the sharp rise of the Shawangunk Mountains, all these things will not have changed.  There will be flowers on her grave, in the plot where her paternal grandparents also rest, and maybe a few stones as well, to show that someone came and stopped for a moment before moving on to the next thing, came and stopped and thought of the beautiful girl in the earth below and paid their respects to her. I think that will be my next thing to do, to cross the river and go and put a stone on her grave, and remember the little girl who used to rescue salamanders from the stream that ran by her house and the young artist with so much promise and the lovely young woman who was almost as tall as I am, almost, and who only grew that tall to make me feel old.

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