When something terrible happens, something that surpasses my understanding of the world, I want to run to Dr. Overinvolved. I want to cry in his arms. I want him to touch me in all the ways I am not supposed to want him to touch me. He is darkness and death and infinity and trauma and every unanswered question I have about why terrible things happen. Why, and for what purpose?
“He was 41 for a month and three days.”
“I am not supposed to be looking for a place to bury my husband.”
“He’s been rejected from the body donation program because there’s too much trauma.”
“The Sheriff who knocked on my door at 4am was named Officer Grimm.”
“I can’t put him in the ground. He hates confined spaces.”
And so, it has been eight days, 15 hours, and 30 minutes since my best friend’s husband died in a terrible accident. I stayed with her the first two days. I gave everything I had physically and emotionally. I cleaned, sprinted down the street after wayward dogs, berated teenagers for smoking weed and drinking in full view of the neighbors, cleaned, cooked, shopped, cried, hugged, and opened her front door to a multitude of intimidating and articulate biker dudes in tears.
“I’ve done some bad things in my life, but I have been a good person overall. I don’t understand why this happened.”
I said, “It’s not you. I know we like to think that if we are good people and try to treat people how we would like to be treated, things will be okay. But the world is chaotic; things happen that are far beyond our control and it’s so scary to realize that. You ARE a good, kind, loving person.”
She is. She was the first person I called after I found out I had cancer. She drove me to my thyroidectomy. And so much more. When you are kids in the neighborhood playing hide and seek, watching videos on MTV, and talking about the boys you have a crush on, you never imagine that 25 years later you will be holding that same friend as she screams in anguish over the loss of her husband.
On the two hour drive to her home, I stopped to get coffee. On my way out, a retirement-age woman handed me a flyer. It depicted Jesus wearing the crown of thorns and said, “When will the suffering end?” We are not religious people. I nodded politely.
We go gingerly into day nine, with the date for his celebration of life set and his ashes cooling. We have photos, memories, and personal quirks to look back on and smile, and even amongst all those remembrances, it still doesn’t seem quite real.