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At the same hour as the horrible shooting in Newtown, there was the funeral mass for the daughter of old neighbors of ours, less than an hour's drive away. At the age of 32, Melissa had been fighting lung cancer to five years; no known cause; never smoked. Last June her fiance said, time to get married, and they did. What a stand-up thing to do. What a bittersweet ceremony. Melissa was a beautiful bride, and surprisingly beautiful still, still in death. What a loss to her husband of short months, her twin sister, and her parents. She had much to live for. Five years is too long a goodbye.
When we confront people's dying, the reaction often varies with the age of that person. Often, in the case of the elderly, we can see it as a blessing or as a release. Often, as in the case of Alzheimer patients, the goodbyes have been said years before. With younger people, there is sadness, often shock, but they have lived a life, we knew who they were, and often they had families started, or even grandchildren. We feel our own mortality.
But the death of young children is simply different. I've heard it said that a child is yet another chance to finally get things right. But at this early age, we do not know what they will become, and this is the tragedy of it. It is different for the parents, of course, an empty hole to be forever unfilled, and unfilllable. But for the rest of us, it is a diminution, whose extent we cannot know.
The best response to death I know is the famous short poem by John Donne, No Man is an Island, about the interconnectedness of humanity.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
Sorry for such a short diary, devoid of any real content, but I simply had to do some therapeutic writing.
And this is for Melissa:
We cry as much for ourselves as for those we have lost. No parent should have to bury a child.