1 Corinthians 15:55

Where there's life, there's hope.  But is there hope in death?

A friend and colleague of mine died this past week of a cancer that was diagnosed less than six months ago, just after Thanksgiving.  Last autumn, she and a colleague took a group of students on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  This spring, she is dead, leaving behind her father, her brother, her husband, and their two sons.  She was 53.

There is no logic in her death.  She was, in so many ways, the best of us, the most generous, the most giving, the most supportive, the calmest, always ready with a thoughtful word.  Thinking of her, what I remember best is her warmth, the gentleness of her voice, and her smile.  Although I saw her only infrequently after graduate school, she always gave the impression of having been thinking about me.     She had an almost magical ability to make one feel loved and respected and treasured.

And now she is dead.  I can only imagine what her family must be feeling if even those of us who only knew her professionally are grieving so.  It is unfair.  There is nothing that she did to deserve dying so young.  She was active and fit, a rider of horses.  She was calm as a scholar, no drama or crises as far as I could tell, her work steady and polished.  She was balanced as a person, giving proper time to her work and her family.  I never once heard her complain.

And, no, this is not simply speaking well of the dead.  She really was this person, at least as I knew her, but I doubt very much that I am alone.  She was, in so many ways, the person that I wish I could be, from her knowledge of languages (she studied Arabic long before it was fashionable), to the clarity of her prose (limpid in its precision and lack of pretension), to the way in which she talked about the challenges of riding her horses (two wills, not just one, that you have to control).  If only, I have so often thought, I could be a better person, the person I would be would be most like Remie.

Is there a lesson for us in her death?  Or is there only sadness for the loss of someone so precious to us?  Death "concentrates the mind", "gives meaning to life", "puts things in perspective".  We should remember the dead, "for they were like us and we will be like them".  "Seize the day, for you never know when the end will come."  The phrases rattle around like well-worn pebbles in the mind, as senseless as the death of our friend.  At least, that is, as senseless as her death seems to all of us still struggling here in this life, the only life we have ever known, thinking, hoping, dreaming that there is something, anything we can do to make death not come.


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