On Saturday morning I woke to the news that Sheryl Sandberg’s husband Dave Goldberg had passed away unexpectedly while on vacation. Now, to most of the world, this is a sad news tidbit people learned about over their morning coffee and forgot long before the day had grown warm, but to our corner of the country, where he was well known and loved, the news threw everyone for a loop.
Successful, healthy men aren’t supposed to die at 47.
To me, the news was particularly poignant, as is all news about dead parents these days. It doesn’t take much to bring tears to my eyes or make me relapse into my grief funk.
I rallied as best as I could. Took the little and a friend to a skate boarding lesson and rallied as best as I could.
And then, while meandering around downtown, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and discovered that she was battling bone cancer.
I felt panicky for the rest of the day. Short of breath. Shaky. Terrified. Life felt just too fragile to bear.
Most of the time, we live in happy denial of all the things that can tear our friends and family away from us. We don’t know about most of the illnesses that can claim or radically alter lives. We conveniently forget about how dangerous it is to even walk down the street or up the stairs.
And then, sometimes, you get hit in the face with one reminder or three. And BAM, the mere thought of how fragile life is, of how easy it is to lose someone, brings you to your knees and steals the breath from your lungs.
I’d love to say that this temporary epiphany made me more loving to my family, made me want to hug everyone close, but really, all it did was make me want to hide under the covers and lose myself in a book. Even when fictional characters die, they’re never really gone. Just flip a few pages back, and presto, they’re back.
I’m sure that in the not so distant future my denial will be securely back in place and I’ll be, once again, able to get on with my life without gasping for breath every time I glimpse what life would be like if it were missing more of my people.
In the meantime I feel about as fragile as life really is.