Memento Mori.

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The covered bridge in the Winterset City Park. Photo: Wikipedia.
The covered bridge in the Winterset City Park. The memorial today was held in the park. Photo: Wikipedia.

In Winterset, Iowa right now, time is unrecognizable. I’m back in Chicago, but the strange clocks in my hometown are exactly as I left them: not keeping proper time.

While I was home, I’d think it was afternoon and it was well past seven. But time didn’t fly; at other times, the hours felt sluggish and sticky as the heat and every bit as oppressive.

As we walked to the car yesterday to get me to the airport, the sun beat down on me and Mom; there was sweat on my brow the moment we got outside. Mom said it was 108-degrees with the heat index. I had two thoughts: “What is a heat index, anyway?” and I thought how the death of a young person has to be worse in the summer. A cold, hard wind, a forest of sticks; winter fits the grinding bleakness of grief. Sun, cicadas, and flip-flops feel absurd, revolting. Both the young people I have known who died, died in the summertime. Another reason to look forward to cooler weather.

I had to leave before Megann’s memorial today. I know many people were there. There will be another ceremony, I believe, in Olympia, WA, where the girl made much of her adult life, though people from WA and other parts of the U.S. flew or drove many miles this past week, yesterday, and today to pay respects and give love to the family. Times like this, it’s clear to me that people are basically good.

Lastly: What is a silver lining?

I looked it up. It originated with Milton, from a poem in 1634. In it, he detailed “a sable cloud…turning her silver lining in the night.” The Victorians worked that into the colloquialism, “Every grey cloud has a silver lining” which means, essentially, “Even a really crappy situation has good things that happen because of it.”

Megann’s mom, K., told me a lady said “this-or-that was ‘a silver lining in all of this.'” The woman who said that meant well; we all do and who knows what to say right now? But K., gracious and caring to absolutely everyone, even in her agony, said to me, quietly, “There is no silver lining.” It certainly seems that way.

It is also true that in the past 10 days, I have had deep, soul-affirming conversations with special people I haven’t seen in years. I’ve remembered the priceless nature of a sibling relationship. I am continually being reminded that no meeting, no delayed flight (I was delayed four hours in St. Louis and arrived home past midnight), no headache, no spot on the carpet matters very much.

It’s people. It’s always only people.

 

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