Today I attend a funeral, a friend of mine with whom I shared professional work, personal stories, and many a lunch in my 30's. My friend had a heart attack early Monday morning.
Then I heard about Virginia Tech. Last Saturday we hosted another good friend -- a Tech animal science professor, who's wife and children are also affiliated with the university. It took hours before I learned they were safe.
It's an extremely odd and jarring thing to jump from happy easy images in my kitchen -- laughing about our kids, lamenting the logistical absurdities of my wedding planning, catching up on all the work and life and car shopping that had transpired during the month since his last visit -- to fearing a friend's death, to worrying intensely whether he was teaching in Norris Hall at 9:45 Monday morning, to barely imagining the panic he must have endured before he learned his own family was safe, to recognizing that it takes less than 48 hours, less than a minute, in fact, for your life to change drastically, permanently, forever. One minute two children have a Dad, next minute his heart fails. One day I'm laughing about an old clunker Chevy -- or is it an Oldsmobile? -- next day I fear the owner's been murdered.
Beautiful, heartfelt, gut-wrenching expressions of grief abound online at the moment. I resonate with their sentiments, but I can't match them in eloquence right now. I can't ever do that, immediately tap into emotions so strong. I first have to keep them on display, arm's-length, explored from a distance before I slowly invite them in. So right now best I can do is feel bewildered and confused and somewhat let-down by Change. Change is hard enough, so I stubbornly believe it should be gradual, offering incremental shifts in bite-sized pieces we can reasonably digest and handle. Genuine saddness and grief about someone's death should never be preceeded by mind-number shock or instinctive yet impulsive anger at a mindless cause. People should not suddenly die from heart attacks. They should not be senslessly gunned down one morning while attending a German class. It's not right. There is nothing even remotely Right about it.