Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No Words

Yesterday was not a good day on a national level, and on a personal level. Everyone knows about the national tragedy -- 33 Virginia Tech students (maybe staff?) were gunned down in a dorm and classroom on campus. That number could rise since there are another 12 people in the hospital with gunshot wounds. The enormity of this is almost unfathomable. Almost. Having worked on a college campus, I can uncomfortably fathom it.

College campuses are a unique network of trust and assumption of best intentions. Because of the concentration of young adults who are just starting to realize their vulnerability and their personal responsibilities, that's the only way it can function. On a more grown-up level, it's kind of like baby-proofing your house. College administrators try to protect campus residents from potential trouble spots as best they can, but you can't have 100% protection from every possibility.

Check the crime blotter in any college newspapers -- you'll see instances of laptops or iPods having been stolen (because the owner left them unattended in a public place), CDs and cash disappearing (because the dorm resident left her door unlocked), and warnings about leaving dorm doors propped open (because a roommate forgot her keys). So it's all too easy to picture one person taking advantage of the collective peaceable mindset of a campus and wreaking havoc. Today, instead of imagining it, all I have to do is turn on CNN.

So, what's the personal tragedy? The mother of a six-year-old girl in my children's daycare passed away yesterday morning. She'd been diagnosed with ovarian cancer last Fall which had spread to her liver. After chemo and surgery, she was in remission until a few weeks ago. When she couldn't keep any food down, she went to the doctor, thinking it was some kind of stomach flu. To be on the safe side, they did some ultrasounds, and found a mass on her liver that caused it to swell, and it was swollen to the extent that it was pushing up against her stomach and intestines. The doctors said there really wasn't anything they could do, and that she had anywhere from two weeks to two months to live. And ten days later, she's passed.

My heart just breaks for her family. And I can't help but think about my family, and how they would weather my untimely demise. I don't dwell on it. I pretty much banish the thought instantly. We've taken care of all of the "what if" paperwork -- living wills, regular wills, durable power of attorney -- but it's not like there's a plan for what to do emotionally. I don't think there can be, outside of knowing that the one left behind should hie him/herself to therapy. And perhaps hire a cleaning service.

Sorry. My defense is to joke when things are intense.

The fact that these two things transpired on the same day...well, I can't help but think that this little girl and her father will always, always, always be hyper conscious of the date of their loss. Whenever April 16 cycles back around in the future, the nation will remind us that it's the anniversary of the deadliest shooting spree in American history. I don't for a hot second believe that this family will ever fully recover from their loss, but healing is going to be harder when a national tragedy trumps your personal one.

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