A little over a week ago, a nephew-of-sorts of mine died in a fall. He was almost 19, a freshman at Tufts. It was tragic, and senseless, and horrifying. The funeral was Sunday, and he's been on my mind a lot.
To be honest, I didn't know Alex that much. We saw each other at most once a year, and usually less frequently. I learned more about Alex at his funeral than I had over the years of rote greetings at family gatherings. He was a smart, generous, energetic guy (boy? man?)
When I think about Alex's death, of course I think about him, and his too-short life, and his final hours. I think about his parents, and what they must be going through, and I wonder if I could handle such a loss.
I think about my own children and I think about parenthood: the enormous commitment, energy, love, and work that goes into shaping and guiding these new people. The pain and fear of sending them off into the world, away from your protective watch. It's difficult in the best of times.
Alex's death was painful not only because we lost Alex, but because it was a brutal reminder that we can lose anyone, at any time, with no notice. It's easy to imagine a nearby parallel universe where it was one of my sons instead of him.
At the funeral, Alex's dad recounted an uncle's similar loss. The uncle's wisdom was that we will not find a reason for Alex's death, but that we will find meaning in life.
I come back again to Kurt Vonnegut's son Mark, answering, and neatly side-stepping, the question of meaning: "We're here to get each other through this thing, whatever it is."
Take care of each other.