Sunday, February 21, 2016

I am weary, let me rest

Bad luck, I guess. It floats around. It's got to land on somebody. It was my turn, that's all. I was in the path of the tornado. I just didn't expect the storm would last as long as it has.
- Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption

At this point, all that keeps running through my head is a question.  "When is it enough? At what point does the universe recognize that one person has shouldered enough of his share of tragedy, trauma, heartbreak, loss?  How much does one person get saddled with before the fates decide, 'yep, we've tormented him enough, let's move on?'"

That's all I can think of today, ever since I learned that my sister-in-law Lori - my brother Josh's wife, Emma's mother - went to sleep last night and never woke up again.

She had been battling demons for a long time.  Emma's accident, and then her death, devastated Lori beyond imagining.  But I spoke to her a few days ago and she sounded good.  There was a lightness and clarity to her voice that I hadn't heard in a long time.

But when I asked Josh what happened, he said that she died of a broken heart.  A part of her could never conceive of continuing to live in a world without Emma in it.  And now she doesn't have to. I can't make any sense of it. It is beyond the capacity of my brain to accept or justify, under any concept of the cosmic forces of fairness or justice or decency that might exist.

But of course, the problem is, there are no cosmic forces of fairness or justice or decency.  It's all bullshit.  There is no god, no inherent benevolence or goodness at work. It's all random and arbitrary and unfair, whether for good or for ill.  Horrible things happen to good people, and great things happen to horrible people, and that's just the way it is.  So fucking get over it.  Be happy or don't.  Hug your kids closer today or don't.  It doesn't make a goddamned bit of difference.

Because otherwise, what could possibly explain or justify my brother Josh being the one to suffer this kind of tragedy, again? After everything he's already been through? How can my nieces lose their beloved sister and then their mother, in the span of less than two years?

When Emma died, the power of the shock, in addition to the power of the grief, was overwhelming. It was unfathomable.  How could this happen to her, after everything that had already happened?  I felt like my heart was bursting with every imaginable facet of grief, but also with every imaginable facet of love as well - love from family, love from friends, love sent from well-wishers from across the globe.

And now?  Now I am numb. I am furious. I cast a narrowed, jaundiced eye upon the world and think, "et tu?" at everything I see or encounter.  

There are little things that keep popping into my head.

Like the particular tone in my father's voice that is now instantly recognizable as Barry's Vocal Inflection for Announcing Death and Destruction.  "Wendy, Emma was hit by a car..."  "Wendy, Emma was killed in a car accident..."

Today I answered the phone just as the kids and I were heading into the car wash.  "Wendy, Lori died last night..."

I love my father, but I am weary of that endless loop of his voice that I hear in my head, announcing the various tragedies that befall my brother.

Then there's the fact that this kind of horrible thing always seems to happen when my mom and dad are apart.  When my grandma Ruth died, my father was white-water rafting in Idaho and was totally incommunicado - he didn't even know about it until days later.  When Leo died, my dad was in Denver.

When Emma died, my mother was in Brazil on business.  When she found out from the embassy duty officer that my father was trying to reach her because of a death in the family, she thought to herself, "it must be one of the kids or grandkids, because the old people are all dead." She spent the long flight home crying on the shoulder of her coworker.

And this morning, my mother had just arrived in South Africa on another business trip.  She got the news, talked to my dad and then to me on the phone, and got on another plane to come back.
What do these patterns mean?  Nothing, undoubtedly.  None of it means anything.

Once again, we will head to New Hampshire and circle the family wagons. We will try to provide each other with comfort, to comprehend the incomprehensible, to fathom the unfathomable.

We've gotten depressingly good at it.


  1. Oh damn it. Enough. I'm raging for your family because I don't know what else to do.

  2. All I can say is holy shit. Because what the fuck, that can't be right. I love you and I am thinking of you snd your family.. Unfortunately I can't offer more but please know that you are in my heart.

  3. All I can say is holy shit. Because what the fuck, that can't be right. I love you and I am thinking of you snd your family.. Unfortunately I can't offer more but please know that you are in my heart.

  4. Such bullshit indeed. Can't believe this is happening again. I told Josh I will be here to help in any way I can and his response was "yeah, you know how to to this". Ugh. Love to you and your family. See you soon. Kasie

  5. Dear Michelle, just no words, so I won't even try. Sending you Gaia's dance of healing and love. It's all I got.

  6. My chest feels all tight and choked up and I just want to cry. I agree with everything you say, though want to disagree: if only there were some higher purpose to justify such extreme loss and suffering. Strength and love to your family. One day at a time. Nicole