They say these things happen in threes. I don’t know what it is; there’s something happening. Over the past two weeks I’ve received news. None of it is my news, but it’s the kind of news you turn over and sit with, news that steals your breath and intrudes on your dreams. Then you spend the day talking in sympathy cards.
Two weeks shy of his forty-fourth birthday, Jay, Phil’s friend from college, lost his battle to cancer.
Twenty-two weeks pregnant, one of my closest friends went into pre-term labor and lost her son. She called me and got the news out in sobs. I don’t know why, but as she told me, I found myself crouching down, then sitting on the floor, under my desk. It’s the kind of news that brings you back, if that makes any sense. I can’t know what that’s like, not even close, even with my pre-term labor and NICU nights. Because we all wear it so differently.
I’ve been really quiet these past weeks. Being still. Just feeling it, sitting with it. Life’s joys and the way they’re taken from us, a lot of the time without warning. And even when we are warned, when we can see the signs, when we know it’s the end, we’re not really ready for it. We use the word surreal because we’re too tired to say anything. Anymore. To anyone.
Another friend of mine was at the airport, waiting for her husband to pick her up. Maybe he was running late or got a head start. It takes time to load a car with four-year-old twins and a sassy six-year-old—who has to pee, okay, who needs water, stop pushing, you’re sitting on the seat belt, if you’re going to argue we won’t listen to anything. An eighty-nine-year-old woman drove her car onto the highway, into oncoming traffic. It was dark. Foggy. She slammed her car into my friends’, and she and my friend’s husband, Grier Laughlin, were pronounced dead on the scene. He was 37. The children survived and are home recovering and mourning. All the while my friend was at the airport, waiting. I still cannot believe it. He was buried this past Friday. Yet, still, I keep thinking, “No, they got it wrong. Someone just needs to turn that lady around. Grier will be fine.”
I was a guest at their wedding. They opened their home to me after my divorce, despite the fact that Grier went to college with the wasband. They remained my friends and visited with me for hours when I was in Denver on book tour for Moose. Just the other day I was organizing my bookshelves and came across All About Us, a fill in the blank type of book the wasband and I had begun to complete together. I opened to a random page and saw the question: which of your partner’s friends is your favorite? The wasband wrote Smelly, and I wrote Grier.
I can’t even begin to think of the road in front of, ahead of, the living. Or all the thoughts back, the replaying of daily details, the saved texts, his voice on the answering machine, an unfinished to-do list and to-live life. I wish there were something each of us could do to take the hurt out of living. Grier, I am sure of it, loved his family with the win or lose love they’ll carry with them deep inside. I hope they are all feeling supported, surrounded by love, and that they’re each finding comforts, however small, in the ordinary moments of their extraordinary lives.