Saturday, August 27, 2011

and another.

Another random water death by someone fit and healthy.

I learned today that our friend David died last week, as the newspaper said, "during the swimming portion of the triathlon." He was 20 years older than matt, and matt had described him as "someone who probably used to be in good shape, but has become stiff and tense." David was both things - in good shape, and stiff and tense. He moved with a tremor you'd only notice if you were the kind to notice things. He was angry and self-righteous, anxious, controlling, and brilliant in his chosen field.

We were coffee shop friends. Matt had been working with David on some design renovations for his house in the week before his own random water death. When Matt died, this stiff, formal, somewhat angry man offered his time to me, saying, "I'm pretty good with these sorts of things."

I was just thinking of him the other day - David, that is. Matt I think about all the time. Was just randomly wondering what he was up to, how his summer was going. Driving down to the coffee shop today, I was thinking of how, when someone dies, when some random accident happens, we say "it hit close to home." I was thinking how people probably said that when their friend Matt died, that such a tragedy happened so close to home, and how for me, it wasn't "close to home," it WAS home.

I walked in to the coffee shop and sat down with a friend. We did our normal catch up on things. And then he very gently and slowly told me: there is some news. Some news in the way of sudden death. And then he said his name: David. He told me the details are not released. He told me he wanted to tell me before I read it somewhere, or overheard it in some less-than-gentle way. While reading the tribute on his employer's webpage, I came to the part where David was taken from the water during the triathlon. My friend said quietly - "it was water. That was the other thing I didn't want you to find out about alone."

What is odd to me about this is my lack of grief, I guess I'd call it. Now, David and I were not in any way close. I hadn't seen him for months. It is bizarre that he is gone, just - poof! but I feel inured to that somehow. He and his ex-wife were hostile with each other, so there is no one like me, there is no one whose life was twined with his, no one whose home took this direct hit. Maybe that is why. Does that seem rude? Dismissive? It's like seeing what happened to me, what happened to matt, from this outsider's view, this casual connection point of view, where it is not my life that has been hit. The loose-knit community absorbs it, people are shocked, but no one's life, no one's daily life, is personally changed.

And maybe because it HAS happened to me, the shock is different. I already know that weird random shit happens weirdly and randomly. I already know that the world blows up, and what happens after it does. For the people "close to home," things have a momentary rift, and then ease back to normal, perhaps with a fleeting tint of "life is short."  People who take a direct hit know there is no normal anymore.

I'm not crying. I'm not sad about David. Do I need a five tombstone movie to be sure I'm still in here? Am I callous and shut down? I don't know. My friend and I sat there talking about it, talking about the details and funerals and all these things. A man came in wearing glasses a bit like David's. I said, "I thought that was him, even though we sit here talking about his funeral, I looked up and was ready to say hi to him." My friend told me he had been doing that all day. David was many circles out from the center of my home. His death will make no difference in most of my daily life. But he is one more person I will not look up to see coming through the door, no matter what the corner of my eye thinks it sees.

It's making me feel somewhat cocky. Somewhat - I don't know - fearless isn't quite the right word. Within the freak out panic of my mother around the weather coming through this weekend I feel myself bristle and think - dude, you have no idea. You die whenever you die, and there is not a thing in this world that will change it or stop it or anything else, so stop freaking out. Having only heard about David barely two hours ago, I feel a cavalier smart-ass-ness in me - get over yourself. Stop being jerks. Stop freaking out. Random shit will pluck you from this place, from this life, or it won't. Nothing you can do. You aren't safe, and you aren't in danger either.

It's really quite a bit smart-ass. Maybe I do need a movie.



  1. Interesting post, Megan. First, about the weather. My mom emailed this morning with one of those "watch out!" warnings. I wrote back, "No sweat, mom. It's all fine.". I felt that way during last year's cane too - not that I ever felt in any sincere danger - but it's more my attitude. I have noticed t while traveling - such as last year when a boat flew off a trailer in front of my van, and then the gas can slid across the pavement to stop under my front bumper. Same with the frozen mud that broke off an ATV on a trailer and smashed in the hood of my van on an Idaho freeway going 70 mph a couple of years back. It's like... "Uh, so what? Is that the best you can muster? it'll take more than that to stop me.". Because, you see, it has to do with when your luck runs out. Guess mine hasn't just yet. But for other people I hear about - well, their luck did run out.

    Now, there is something to what you wrote about David and his relationship with his wife. This past week, I have been feeling sad and really quite dreadful every time I see a photo of Olivia Chow, wife of the NDP party leader whi just died of cancer a few days ago. It has been very big news here in Canada. I have been thinking about why that is - that so many across the country seem to be grieving. I think it is because Jack Layton has become almost iconic of everyone's grieving over losing someone they love to cancer. Layton appeared on tv on July 25, so gaunt and terrible frail, and with Olivia at his side, while he read his resignation as party leader and his intention to fight the cancer that was breaking loose again. I recognized that gaunt face, and also that strained haggard look on Olivia's face. And during the past few days as there have been public visitations, I see those moments when she looks crumpled and crushed by what has happened. They were a very close couple - both were federal politicians. They were inseparable and appeared constantly at oublic events like gay pride parades in Toronto. It was obvious how cllose they were, and now a part of her has died with him. I know that feeling so well - am so aware of it this week as it is almost the anniversary if the day I took Don to the hospital for the last time.

    In some ways, I feel that I have become sort of hard and world weary - a sort of shrugging "so what" about death, and in other ways, I still feel a kind of anger and sadness of how death cheats us of our happiness. I am especially angry at cancer, as I feel it is like some selfish thief that sneaks in to steal a life after putting the victim and his/her loved ones through hell for a few months or years.

    Anyhow, yes, I think we are left with all sorts of odd thoughts and feelings and ways of dealing with or rationalizing death. A lot of it only makes sense to oursekves - like some form of personal mythology.

  2. bev - "I feel that I have become sort of hard and world weary" ~ exactly that. I'd like to be able to someday say Nothing Matters, and say it with kindness and softness and some kind of light. That time is not now, not yet.

  3. I guess you know what I have to say about all that: it is what it is. Sitstahwsiti, even. There is very little we can control. And worrying is not controlling, much as we wish it helped even a bit.

    Your writing is becoming ever more centered & pure, Megan. Starker & at the same time more gentle. I wish I didn't understand it as well as I do.

    As the rain starts to come down...

  4. A colleague told me that a mutual friend had lost her Dad last week. I reacted in a similar way ..... except for me it was more an internal thought that said "Well, he was 70. How long did you think he was going to live? Everyone dies and he is no different". (Outwardly though, I made the right sounds of pity and condolence).

  5. What deardarl wrote reminds me of a recent incident. A neighbour mentioned that another older neighbour had died suddenly of a heart attack after a day out fishing in his boat. I said that was sad news, but that was a good way to go as there are a lot worse ways to die. I suppose that sounds rather terrible, but it is how I look at things these days.

    Megan, I think the kindness and softness does come in time. I feel a lot different now than I did before. Before, I know I was a lot angrier, but that is gradually fading. These days, I am in a quieter place and just spend a lot of time helping people solve problems. I sort of don't care about myself anymore - which is probably an unhealthy attitiude - but that's one of those "it is what it is" things and probably ain't gonna change.

  6. Fascinating post Megan.

    When someone close died to me (years ago), someone young and taken before their time, I couldn't grieve for anyone older than her (33) as I felt surviving at any age over 33 was a bonus. I even didn't go to the funeral of an elderly (and much loved) relative because I felt I had already said goodbye and there was no need (I was wrong, but that's another story).

    However, for me, things feel very differently this time around, and far from feeling innoculated against others and their grief, I seem to be taking it all on - for instance the woman who lost her husband on honeymoon in the shark attack - that floored me. And when I read of soldiers being killed and their families informed I sob, for them, but probably for me too. And yet, Bev's post brings me up short (which I sometimes need) and reminds me that my husband's drowning was terrible for me, but so much better for him than a long drawn out illness. Still, why does it have to be one or the other?

    Much love to you all from London.

    HB from PG xx

  7. HBPG - The deaths with a partner left behind still get me, at any age, because I know what that is. But deaths of the elderly, while often sad for the families are not, to me, Sad Deaths. Death Is. And there are some very very wrong ones. I am extremely grateful that matt did not "half" come out of the water, needing his father and I to make decisions about life support. If he couldn't come out well and healthy, than I am glad he went completely and right away.

  8. Megan - you are right. I remember a doctor (on holiday) coming up to me later and saying that even if JS had survived he would have been very brain damaged. Much love. HB

  9. I can relate to all these posts. Death, so what?Having had to live and survive a husbands suicide, I think I am fearless. When a friend has a cancer diagnosis , gee, I am sorry, but, well, you know, that is life. You lost your pet? Are you kidding me? Get a grip! LIfe is not for the faint hearted. Cheers to all....

  10. Megan--very philosophical exercise and good food for thought. Some reminds me of grace, some of callousness--both necessary to a point. deeper still, courage waits (not the need of a 5 tombstoner), I think. just some thoughts. . . love the banter. thanks for putting this out here.

  11. grace and callousness.

    I hope I don't need a 5 tombstoner. Pretty well wrecked these days, ferree.