Funny how the disappearance of someone you hadn’t seen in 20 years, might not have seen in 20 more, can nonetheless knock you sideways.
I don’t know if I would have seen Chris again, but I took for granted that I could: the possibility was always there that I’d run into her back in a Wisconsin bar, buy John and her a beer, and catch up on the lifetime or two since we’d seen each other last.
Now I know that will never happen.
Chris is not the first person around my age who’s died—an old boyfriend died in a car crash half a lifetime ago, another guy who I partied with in high school was killed in a snowmobile accident—but she’s the first one who I know who died for health reasons. Her death in an accident would have been shocking and sad, but that she died because her body gave out is. . . well, I was going to say incomprehensible, but, really, stunning precisely because it is so comprehensible: this is, in the end, what will likely happen to me and everyone I know.
Are you more prepared in your sixties for this? In your seventies and eighties? Not that you get used to it, the disappearance of people, but is it less shocking? Is it worse for being less shocking?
Chris’s death has meant a peg has been kicked out and away from my own sense of self; I left a bit off-kilter, for she has carried a piece of me away with her.
And that’s how it is, I guess. I mourn the loss of her, mourn the loss of the possibility of her, and mourn the loss of myself, in her.
I can scarcely imagine what her family and close friends are going through, to lose someone so central to them, so central to who they are; they have lost Chris and thus are themselves lost.
So in their grief, through their grief, they’ll try to find their way back, without her.