I Can’t Tell You Much, But I Can Tell You This

I can’t tell you much of anything important.

I can’t tell you why some people die too young, why others live too long and die a slow and painful death, why some people seem to bear more sorrow than others.  I can tell you that life is brutal and unfair, but you already knew that, didn’t you?

A good friend’s daughter died last week.  She left behind a husband and 7-year-old daughter, two sisters, her mother, three nieces and two nephews.  When she was a college student, she babysat for our children, and they were both in her wedding.

In many ways, she was a lucky person — beautiful, charming, smart.  In other ways, she struggled.  You don’t always see another person’s demons.  We’re all so good — too good — at putting on our bright faces and insisting we’re doing well.  It’s what we’re expected to do; it’s usually what the rest of the world wants us to do.  Who has time for the longer, sadder stories?  Who really wants to hear?

She died too soon and left a heartbroken family behind who will think about her the rest of their lives.  There is no sense or logic in that; there’s only sadness.

I can only tell you only one good thing.  She felt strongly about being an organ donor.  Her eyes, her heart and her kidneys were salvaged to help others.  This doesn’t make sense out of her tragedy, but it’s a small comfort.  Parts of her, like fragments of a bright star, have escaped death and will live on.  It’s not nearly enough, but it will have to do.

(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read one of my favorite posts about showing off my scars

6 comments… add one
  • So sorry to hear this.  Yes life is brutal and it doesn’t come with explanations.  But it is the life we have and celebrating the life someone lived, no matter how brief, is the only way I have of dealing with the grief of losing them.

  • There is no way to make sense of a young person’s death; we’re just not programmed for it. My deepest sympathies, Ruth.

  • So sad for this young woman and her family and others who loved her.  Sometimes things make no sense. Seems to leave us all wondering if we understand anything in this world at all.

  • Winston Link

    When I was just four, Mother kept me up one night to see a live broadcast of a program on TV.  She said it was special and perhaps I might remember some of it later as I grew older.  It was a production of Our Town.  Although I’ve seen several productions of Our Town on TV and on local stages in the intervening decades, I have never forgotten some of those shadowy b&w images on that early model TV screen.  I remember the stark, near-barren stage, Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibbs  cooking breakfast on invisible stoves.  I especially recall a mass of huddled umbrellas and a young lady emerging dressed in white.  Mother said the girl was dead.  It was her funeral.  I have never forgotten that.  I have attended many graveside funerals since then, and studied Our Town— especially Act III.  And I have taken many peaceful walks through our city cemetery and imagined its residents seated in folding chairs beside their tombstones, unemotionally commenting about my presence amongst themselves as I passed by reading their stones.  “Beloved Wife.” “Daddy.”  “Little Angel.”  Act III tells us the departed grieve the ignorance and blindness of the living.  And if we only could, we’d grieve more for ourselves than for our dearly departed no matter the age or circumstance.  The answer to all of our “whys?” and “what fors?” lies in Act III of Our Town, yet I’ve never found the words to utter it aloud– but I can feel it.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Winston, you have to see the revival of “Our Town” that’s playing in the Village.  I can’t tell you how wonderful and moving and spare it is.  Come to NY and I’ll go see it (for the third time) with you.

  • This is terribly sad.  Things like this make no sense at all. I agree about organ donation though – that is one small tiny good thing in all the tragedy.

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