He died on Wednesday, late at night. Heart attack, completely unexpected. It was the bacon, maybe. He smoked sometimes, a lot when he was younger, almost every time he drank. Did he have a stressful life? (who didn’t?)
His wife woke up with the noise and called 911, but he was dead before they got to the hospital. Her older brother helped her with the paperwork, her mother took their daughter for the night, her younger sister organized the funeral: ordered the lilies, found a caterer, offered her house. They met at the cemetery early in the morning. His wife cried as her brother hugged her and the daughter held her hand. A few teenagers who knew the girl from school sat silently in the back. Old friends from college looked at each other fondly, suddenly reminded of how much the missed the people who were once the closest. His sister cried desperately as her husband tried to control their son, who followed the woman’s lead even though he was too young to know why. Distant cousins regretted not going to his last birthday. His wife saw his body one last time, watched him be put down where he’d lay forever, and she felt as if she was dead herself.
They got in the limo, the empty space and 16 minutes all filled with crying and a sharp, painful lack of words. The house smelled like food so good it didn’t belong on such a sad occasion. They ate and tried to tell stories without acknowledging how depressing it was, and then night came and people went to their houses and she paid the caterer and was taken home. She told her daughter goodnight, and they slept.
She felt as if she was dead herself, but here is the thing: she woke up the next day. Her heart was still beating, and the sun was shining because it didn’t know anything was wrong.
The college friends went home to their families, secretly happy they weren’t the ones who, statistically, would have to die young. The distant cousins took their long drives back to their houses and promised they would go to more birthdays, but when the day comes there will be so much traffic or a friend’s dinner party or they’ll be feeling sick, so let’s leave it for next year. The baby cried all night and will cry for a few more days until his mother stops, and then she will, and he’ll grow up and understand and pretend to miss the uncle he doesn’t remember. The caterers packed their things and went for a drink after work, because it’s Thursday and Thursday is almost Friday. The owner of the flower shop used the money from the lilies to buy her boyfriend a late birthday gift.
The man’s daughter cried all night, skipped school the next day and then she will skip Monday and the next and the next and the next, and then she will wake up and put her uniform on and take the bus. She’ll have first kisses and last kisses, she will go to college and find a job, she will be let go and go broke, she’ll get married and cry because her dad can’t walk her down the aisle, she’ll have a baby that carries one-fourth of the man around the world and adopt a dog; she’ll keep breathing (until she doesn’t).
His wife will cry for days straight and then a little every day for months, until one day she won’t. She will go back to her job after a couple weeks and go back to actually doing a good job after a couple of months. She will be caught by surprise by a piece of clothing or a smell or a song sometimes, and cry until she feels her lungs dry, but in between these moments there will be good movies and delicious meals and a funny joke and PTA meetings and long phone calls and beautiful weddings and a unexpected visit and her grandson being born and days so, so happy that they become a little sad because he isn’t there to share it with her.
The sun will keep rising every morning, as if it doesn’t know anything is wrong.
They will hurt and cry and miss, but they are as alive as he is dead, and the world is too big to stop when we request it. He is gone, and that is so much for so many people, but for the world it’s nothing at all.
The sun will keep rising, and they will keep breathing.
There is too much life, even around his death.
His wife will feel as if she’s dead herself.
And the sun will keep rising.