My friend Gwen died last week. She had a stroke about 3 weeks ago. After rallying briefly she went into a tailspin. They out her in the Critical Intensive Care Unit. She never came out.
I'm guessing that she was maybe all of 45. That's too young. Too young.
Gwen suffered from poor health for most of the time that I knew her. She had lupus which kept her physically exhausted and prevented her from engaging in much exercise. Maybe the disease kept her from having that 5th gear she needed to pull through. Maybe not. It didn't help matters any I can tell you that.
Naturally, as seems typical of untimely deaths, she was a kind and gentle person who gave of herself to people and causes. She was an Assistant United States Attorney, she was active in the Bar, and the Junior League. She was on the Board of the local chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (as it was known then) and she served as President of the Board of Women and Children First.
Indeed, knowing of my utter and complete disdain for the Holiday season, she delighted in pestering me without ceasing with invitations to the goddamn Junior League's Holiday House. She issued these spurious invitations on a yearly basis, sometimes enlisting our mutual friend Jana to double team me, knowing full well that I would not be caught dead there on a bet.
"Oh come onnnnnnnnnnn," Gwen would mew. "You'ld dooooo it for meeeeeeee, wouldn't you?"
No. I would not do it for her. I would take a bullet for her. But I wouldn't go to Holiday House. I got principles. They may be screwy ones. But I got 'em. And it amused her to no end to punch my buttons about 'em.
I know that we all gotta go. Our days are numbered as are the hairs on our head. Which in my case means I had better call Reubel Funeral Home and pre-plan my sendoff. As I grow older I have become more conversant with the inevitable. My own remaining parent died last December. I attend the funerals of parents of friends on what seems to be a frequent basis. An aunt died a year and a half ago. A friend almost lost his wife two or three years ago.
But there is nothing tragic about the death of an elderly person. It is the natural order of things. And why I know that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, it seems grossly unfair when a good and useful person like Gwen is struck down before her time. A parent should never have to bury a child, as the parents of soldiers have always known. I cannot imagine such a grief. How does one go on? I cannot imagine.
When you are young you cannot fully appreciate the profundity of annihilation. I am on the flip side of 50. I go to lots of funerals now. I get it. And yet I can scarcely comprehend the fact that Gwen is gone. As in forever. Three weeks ago we were talking about golf. She was on a citizens committee for the City's Parks and Recreation Department. She wanted to know more about the municipal golf courses. She asked if she could ride in the cart with me sometime just so she could see for herself. Sure. Why not?
Two days later, her father found her on the floor.
As God is my witness I do not know why these things happen. There are a million no good sons-of-bitches walking around out there who will live to be 110. And prosper while doing it. Guys that got it coming in spades. And yet laughing chance puts a hard working God fearing woman like Gwen in the cross-hairs.
My friend Laura the Lawyer in Jackson is forsaking the noble profession of the law to be a Methodist preacher. She has sent me books on the topic of why bad things seem to happen to good people otherwise known by the theological term theodicy. I haven't read them yet. I know I should.
But I can't. I'm too pissed off. Gwen was a woman of a deep and abiding faith. And she would scold me if she were here to read this.
But I don't get it, Gwen. I just don't get it.
And I don't know what else to say.