I keep thinking I see her. In town. At the gym. I expect to see her kneeling in her garden on an unseasonably warm day as I round the curve by her new house. I almost say hello to people that resemble her, maybe subconsciously believing that if I do, it will bring her back.

I, and all who knew her, struggle to process the loss of a friend, of a contemporary. Struggle to make sense of someone going “before his or her time.” Struggle to make sense of death and of life and of our own place in the world.

Her family held a Celebration of Life in her memory last week, so that we could gather and share our memories of her and show support for her family. We were patches, hastily sewn together, in the quilt of her life.

Maybe, we fantasized, if we got together, we could figure out why or how this could happen. The church hall overflowed with mourners. We stood, somber and a bit awkward, reminiscing and straining futilely to digest the loss. We, mothers especially, stole furtive glances at her children, unable to imagine the vacuum that her absence will create. Graduations. Weddings. Grandchildren’s births.

We lowered our eyes and shook our head and murmured all those trite but keenly appropriate clichés that we forget until tragedy strikes:

“You just never know…”

“Hug your children and tell them you love them…”

“Make the most of every day…”

We asked after each other’s families and made feeble attempts to catch up, but kept falling back into silent reflective reverie.

There were no tributes, no speeches, no eulogy. Just a large screen with a rotation of photographs of her. Smiling. With friends. With family. Watching over this veritable throng of people, happy, I hope, to see us all together.

I wish I could say that the gathering brought even a modicum of closure. For me, at least, it did not. I wish I could say anything clever or witty; words fail me. I lost a friend, and still keep hoping, against all reason, to see her smile in person again.


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