I found out that I had lost someone today. We met in 2009 at a post-graduate program, and were housemates as well as coworkers. We were both on the quieter side, but still got to know each other and I appreciated her kindness, humor, and constant heart to sing to God and praise Him. After 2010, we barely kept in touch but even just weeks ago when I thought of her, I had assured myself that someday soon we’d run into each other and smile shyly in one another’s presence or crack a joke, or remember something together. I mean, back when we knew each other, she still had a flip phone and I had a dumb phone that was trying to look and act smart. Who would keep in touch regularly on those things, anyway? Regret takes weird forms, and makes one think of the oddest things.
I didn’t even know what kind of phone she had.
We had the same shoes. The same socks, even. But her’s are empty now.
Reading the email with the sad news on the bus ride home, I should have had time to prepare – I rarely get emails from people I know these days. I should have known that I would need to brace myself to grieve with the title “Some Sad News”. But, as usual, my fingers on reflex tapped away on my smart phone and in a brief moment, I didn’t have time to prepare for the shock that followed, or the waves of memories that have been coming for the past hours. I walked home and tried not to cry, surprisingly not numb, but rather open and full of feeling.
Memories of grief from family who have passed on in my life return: my uncle (when I was a teenager), my paternal grandparents (when I was just starting college), my husband’s maternal grandparents (just after I had the chance to get to know them, from sparkiness to fading), my maternal grandmother (just over a year ago). How to not fear death, when it comes again and again, when we’re not expecting it?
Starting graduate school in 2011 was bittersweet and will always hold a mix of sad and joyous memories: two hours after I found out that cancer suddenly took a dear friend and Christian sister, my current program chair called me, mid-weeping, for an informal phone interview. To this day, I don’t know how I qualified, seeing as how I fumbled over words and couldn’t even recall the general gist of my research. I hung up the phone then, unfeeling, and unable to care about the interview. The shock and suddenness of the news in 2011 jarred me, very much like today. Both were young. Even the word “were” is so difficult to use. But now, most acutely: Molly was my peer, my contemporary.
A raw sense of loss comes with that, which is different, somehow, than other forms. We had lived together, passed one another in the halls, seen each other cry, made each other laugh. In her gentle way, she reminded me of a bunny and there was a special tenderness in a mostly wordless relationship. Wall-E and the Muppets deserve mention in the credits here. I called her “Molllllll-EEEEE” and she called me “doo-do-doo-do-doooo, Sanamena!”
I know that she was loved and cherished by many. She still is.
It’s hard to imagine a world without someone we love. It’s hard to go to sleep, and think that someone isn’t also going to sleep in another time zone, going to wake up again tomorrow. I don’t have words of comfort to share. I don’t know how to honor her memory. But I pray for her family, her parents and three brothers, for all of her friends and former classmates, coworkers – everyone who has met her and known her. May they each find rest and peace and comfort as only the Comforter knows how. If you’re also grieving, may this prayer also comfort your hearts.