The world has been wearing tragedy like clothing lately.
And even as I sit here before my paper, I know that I don’t have words for this.
I know so well that my syllables have never been meant to link together into an explanation of the grief that comes with suddenly finding yourself chest to chest with an end.
I will never be able to use my pen the right way, if there is one, for this.
And I guess I’m saying this to let you know that I know I am so unworthy to write about this.
But I am full of tears and sorrow, and so I will write.
I will tell you that last night I leaned against a wall which somehow didn’t feel so steady as I watched people cry into each other’s shoulders. As I watched while people cracked under the weight of news nobody wanted. Under the heavy knowledge that a boy who was so beloved, a boy who was so loving, had moved out of this life. And as I watched the fissures spread, I could feel myself aching too. Because that’s the kind of news we all got. Not labeled “Breaking News,” but headlined with the words “This News Is Capable of Breaking You.”
In the wake of the fear and the prayers and the realization of the loss of life so young, some were rendered speechless. Hollow-eyed, statue still. Some were left unable to walk through the force of their sobbing. Leaning on the arms of others, curled inward. So much grief, in so many packages, displayed in so many ways.
And I somehow found myself in the ranks of the ones who were ringed around the students; pillars of watchfulness and strength. Never in my life have I had a moment which screamed “You are an adult” at me louder than that one. It was a moment when I realized that these kinds of wrenching moments are what I chose when I threw my hat into the Teacher ring. Because in my heart of hearts, I wanted nothing more than to walk into that huddle of heaving shoulders and let go of my sorrow into that circle of grief right along with them. And I could see that in some of the other faces standing tall around me. But in time, those harder moments when we imagined glue on the soles of our shoes passed. As we watched some of the tears turn magically into shaky laughter at the memories which all starred the boy they’d lost. Memories which honored the boy we’d lost. As we watched everyone slowly drift out of the gymnasium doors, as if those walls couldn’t hold the force of the remembering anymore. And at some shadowy point, the evening ended.
So we all got up this morning.
And I can’t speak for them, but I filled my morning with remembering. Remembering the days in which I was blessed to know him. The texts we sent, two years ago before I graduated high school, when we had become good friends. I remembered the strange music which he loved, particularly Aqualung, because I never understood why Jethro Tull spoke to him enough in that song to make it grace the end of his messages for a while. I remembered him. I pressed the words I wanted to say to him into the paper I use to hold my prayers.
And as much as I resent the fact that the world has the audacity to keep turning after such a thing as death, the sun insisted on rising higher in the sky.
And when I stepped outside I marveled that the day was bright, that it would dare to be beautiful after last night. But there it was. Sun shining. Birds singing. Blue sky.
And I realized then and I realize now that I don’t understand. I remember how bewildered and confused I felt when I held goodbye in the palm of my hand at age eleven, and nine years and more loss later, I still feel exactly the same way when I look down and see an end curled up in my hands. I don’t understand why these things happen. Why anybody ever has to leave this life. Why we are the ones who are left behind. Why someone so good, so young and gentle and kind is the one we must learn to carry with us in spirit and in memory and in love.
But I guess it’s not meant for me to understand. I guess this is one of these things that my little human mind can’t wrap around. And I guess the only thing any of us can really do is honor the ones we’ve lost with our living. With our laughter. With our prayers. With our tears. With our remembering.
Maybe even when we don’t understand, we can find a way to look past the shadows thrown by loss, and let the light of days spend with him, with all of them, warm and cover and comfort us. And maybe we can find a place where we can dance in that light shed by his life, with the rhythm of our memories serving as the beat, and the faith that this is not a forever goodbye serving as the melody.
-Jessi Sanders 2013