Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up and is cut down like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow. In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord? (Book of Common Prayer) Hear John Rutter’s haunting setting of this text, from his Requiem, here (video about six minutes).
Spring is always hard on me. Most of the major disappointments and betrayals in my life have come in the spring. I think of those I’ve loved and lost, and I’ve lost most of those in the spring, too: my grandmother whom I called Bambaw, my friend Terry Plunk, my father-in-law. In April of 2007, an emotionally ill, disturbed student at Virginia Tech decided it would be a suitable vengeance to take out as many people as possible before ending his own life; thirty-three people died that day, including the shooter. Last April, PETBoy’s mother Leslie, who had graduated high school with The CEO, died after a short illness that hadn’t seemed all that serious at first.
And this place is beautiful in the spring. The grass is plentiful and soothing to the eye, a deep emerald green, plush and lush and bouncy. Dogwoods and wild cherry trees and redbuds and apple trees are all blooming, white and pink and purple against all that green. It is glorious, and it is in enormous contrast to the losses I feel, and it hurts.
Spring always makes me think of dreams that failed. Every mistake I ever made, every wish that wasn’t granted, every hope unfulfilled, they all come back to me in the spring. I said to someone recently, on her post about the death/rebirth cycle that colors her spring, that I always grieve over the lost things, that one of the bittersweet aspects of giving birth is trading the imagined baby for the real one: the one that could have been a million things now just is. And however wonderful the real one is (and my babies are truly wonderful) – well, I hate giving up the box of possibility.
One of those boxes of possibility is forever shut: my daughter Bookworm’s friend Cameron died yesterday.
He had been on the track team last year and the year before, but this year he’d gotten a job instead. He was on the way there after school on Wednesday, headed north on the interstate highway that runs close by our town and the surrounding ones. The cause of the accident remains unclear, though speed and alcohol were not involved: he ran off the left side of the road up an embankment, hit a tree, and flipped the car. He was not wearing his seat belt. Traffic was backed up for over six miles, for about two hours following the accident.
Cameron was a senior, involved in drama, on the MACC (academic competition) team, threw shotput and discus on the track team. He was a Boy Scout – in the best sense, I mean, not a goody-goody but a genuinely good and friendly kid. He was tall, with long arms and an open face. He and Bookworm used to kid each other about being the “long and short” of the track team – Cameron being the “long,” of course. They were on the MACC team together. Bookworm, who’s something of an introvert and who doesn’t claim a large number of close friends, counted him one of that number.
After she’d gotten home from the track meet last night and we’d hugged and I’d told her how sorry I was, while she was eating a late dinner, she looked at me and said, “I just… it doesn’t seem… I mean, I saw him today. He said hello to me in the hall like he always does.” She sighed. “Did, I mean.” Afterward, I heard her crying in the shower.
I’m sad, too. I’m sad for her, and I’m sad for that close-knit troop of Boy Scouts, most of whom are also band members: Dakota, Justin, Kalep, James, Cody. I’m grieving for his parents. You go through nineteen years of doing what’s right for your kid, from taking those prenatal vitamins to caring for a tiny tyrant on very little sleep, from learning to tell a toddler “No,” and meaning it, to getting him on the school bus, from packing lunches to buying three sets of school clothes in eight months as he grows six inches, from making sure the braces are cared for properly to making sure the SAT fees are paid… you do all those things, and then suddenly what you have is not a healthy intelligent good son about to graduate high school and go to college, not a warm living kid in your house and eating all your food and hugging you good night, but only photographs and fingerpaint art and a Scout uniform. An empty bed, an empty room. A box of possibility, forever closed. Cameron could have been a million things, and now he isn’t any of them. We keep forgetting how breakable people are. My heart hurts.
It’s three days before Easter.
I can’t stop thinking about that Tony Campolo video (about six minutes) where he’s quoting the minister of his church, amazed that the guy got so much out of a repeated five-word phrase in his Holy Week sermon: “It’s Friday… but Sunday’s comin’!”
It’s technically Thursday today, but it is really Friday. It is a dark, dark day, a day in which the good son is dead and your heart hurts and you don’t know what’s wrong with this ruined sad world and hope seems far out of reach.
But Sunday’s comin’. I know. Sunday’s comin’.