horrific happenings lately

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.


  1. Oh, I am so sorry for your losses … I know the feeling you cite, of being sort of stunned into contemplation of life’s unexpected twists, and of how joy can turn into sorrow on the turn of a single second. xox

  2. I’m so sorry. You, your friends, and their families are in my thoughts.

  3. Wow – you have really had an awful lot of terrible news. I once got such terrible news on the phone (20 yrs ago now) that made me fall to the floor holding the phone. It also involved a tragic car accident that took a young 37 yr old mother of 3, and paralyzed her young passenger, a friend of her daughter’s. Horrible stuff….

    Such tragedies – all different, all heart wrenching – words fail to describe how profoundly sad it all is. so sorry

  4. So very sorry for your losses and of those who you love. Hopefully time will begin to heal the raw pain and sadness. A bright note on this beautiful day though, great to see your smiling face in the Statesman…

  5. My heart goes out to all answering those calls that make us sink to our knees. Truly.

  6. Feeling very sad after reading this. It’s so hard when you or friends lose people to tragedy. The dad dying is especially heart-breaking. I’m so sorry.

  7. This is the kind of thing that there aren’t really any words for- “sorry” seems like such a small word, “well wishes” seems shallow, there any words that really fit- so I will send love, support and healing in their direction, i’m so sorry for their loss and for yours. So much love. Also, I’m in Colorado- I know I don’t know your friend- but if there’s even the smallest thing I can do, please let me know.

  8. I remember reading about Jay’s death on the CaringBridge website and crying my eyes out for his family..

    I am so very sorry for your losses – My heart truly goes out to you.

  9. That’s a lot to take in for a stranger. It will, no doubt, take time to process for you. I know what you mean by surreal. I think it took a year after my father died to “get it”. I still don’t really get it. In an instant…

  10. So sorry. I read about that accident as it happened where I live and I was so saddened by it and am even moreso now that I know it was someone you knew and loved.

  11. My brother was killed on Sunday in a plane crash in Abu Dhabi. He was 28 years old. I am trying right now to distract myself from the grief and came across this post. In some way, it helps to know that we all suffer loss. We all find some way to move on, I guess, but it’s never the same. My condolences to both your friends and to your husband.

  12. Stephanie, was just checking in on you and read this entry. My heart is in my throat for you. I am so sorry you’re going through this but I know your loved ones are so grateful to have such a strong friend as you to support them through this time.

  13. Stephanie, I’m sorry for all the terrible news, and especially that those three babies will have to grow up without their daddy. That being said… As someone who has lost too many people I’ve loved in car accidents, I would be destroyed if a friend posted a photo of the carnage on their very popular blog for the world to gawk at. I’m sure you did not mean to be insensitive, but, well… it is.

  14. Yeah, it really weird when someone you know dies, right? I mean, they aren’t old, they weren’t necessarily even sick but now they are gone. What the heck? It always makes me feel a little … off-balance. I feel sad that I will never see or hear from this person again and then I start thinking about what if that happened to me and it just makes me want to go live on a tropical island.

  15. And because I am a moron – I forgot the most important part – I am sorry for your loss, Stephanie. I hope you have now reached your quota.

  16. I’m at a loss for words but felt I needed to say something to you because these events are just so tragic. I’m so sorry for everyone involved. Hoping for strength for all of you as you all try to work through and deal with these tragedies.

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