Then, Suddenly

We crawl out of the masterpiece, brushing beach sand from our legs, welcomed by pets, baby birds hatched and complaining in the former lantern hanging from the patio’s eaves, floors that need attention (especially behind the stove that is being replaced) and a lopsided gazebo that must be dismantled immediately as the wind-gusts that followed us home tear into it. Domestic chaos blooms—and it is good to be here in our personal late Spring mayhem, unpacking, reorganizing and then stopping all that to play soccer with the boy who stops all that to gallop with the dog while the parents recline on cool grass (until they’re trampled).

Then, suddenly, somewhere between dinner and bathtime, I check email.

She was only my age. No one knows, yet—apparently may not know for weeks—the how part. She was here and then she wasn’t. She is gone, but will never leave our thoughts or the house in which it happened, not for the sweet family who carry on living there. I always thought I’d see her again. This I took for granted. We all—family on this side of the country—did.

Then, suddenly, later that night I am seized by a flu. I lie awake fretting, my insides ebbing into illness, thinking about her, wondering if she knew, if it happened in her sleep, too fast for her to register a pain, a fear, any dire certainty. I almost wake my husband to tell him—what? It is just the flu, I think. You have a son to raise tomorrow. Sleep. But I can’t sleep because I’m remembering her, thinking bits such as: Death is only a horizon. Fragments. I think in fragments that enrage and frighten me. I know nothing, except that I am sorry. So sorry she is gone.

In the morning, the warm Spring persists. Details are sorted involving the sending of flowers. More emails are exchanged. Words shared. Shocking. Devastated. Awful. Of course we all want her back, but more than anything I want my cousin to have her sister back. I rise from my sickbed to behave like a mother. My son tries to make me laugh. There is that cat and that cat and that kitten. The dog plants his nose on my mouth. Outside, rose petals wafting, those tiny birds carrying on, bumblebees doddering in the potato vine tree.

Carolyn—I have no idea what death is. Carolyn! You will always be missed.

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About PB Rippey

Writer, wife, mother, activist, fortunate.
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Words do not escape you

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