A blip on the radar that blipped no more. Such was the insidious fate of MS804, and an analogy to life in general. Strutting and fretting our hour upon the stage until we are heard no more.
The anguish in his voice was only as palpable as the apprehension in mine. I asked him if the news was true, hoping tensely that he would reply “what news?”.
But it was true. And the tributes gushed faster than the cognizance of death was willing to outpace denial.
It was true. And phones rang repetitively till they were hurled away in anger.
Death comes accompanied by laborious banalities that numb and pacify, and acceptance is ushered in by the humdrum of paperwork, condolences, errands, paperwork, coordination, event planning and paperwork, until the pangs of loss are muted, if only for a while.
“When did you get over your loss?” my friend asked several days later, referring to the loss of my father at a young age.
“You never do,” I supposed, “and those who do revert to callous hearts and hollowed memories. But for the sake of your loved ones, you would want neither.”
Our dead are always endowed with superlative epithets. They are invariably the bravest, truest and best. Yet, those who endure bereavement are braver, truer and better.
“So what was his mission?” my friend asks, referring to a conversation we had many years ago, in which I hypothesized that we are all here to fulfill a small number of specific actions, and that once they’re done we all live on borrowed time.
“To give your son siblings that will carry him through,” I say, “or to give you the chance to be a surrogate father for a pair of exceptional children.” I was not sure if he found the answer bromide, but he understands that my intention is to fixate on the living, and bury the dead. Despite my own hollow advice, my heart had already calloused after years of dealing with my own loss.
Coincidentally, I notice a more than usual number posts referring to death of loved ones, expressing sorrow and despair. Was it something in the air? I see it in my wife’s eyes too, her scathing sense of loss that does not blunt with time. But unlike others who pour their discomforts, large and small, to an unappreciative audience, we refrain from bringing the subject up even between ourselves. Chores, deadlines, the incessant yapping of our five-year-old hold back the melancholy. Or maybe we’re just not wired to share those thoughts that lurk in the deep and dark.
“Will I be able to do good by him? Will I live ‘normally’ ever again?” my grieving friend wonders. “Absolutely,” comes my emphatic response. The trouble with soothsaying is that it rests on more hope than reason, more desire than conviction, more passion than rationalization. But I am not soothsaying when I rest my judgement on the sturdiness and mettle of my good friend. He has been measured and weighed before, and never has he been found wanting. He has my faith, my empathy, and my unwavering friendship.