Someone I know is dying.
Though to be honest, it’s not even someone I know. It’s someone who knows someone I know — a friend’s sister. I only know this person through my own friend, through stories and tears and joy and sadness, all in equal measure. We’ve never actually met. But none of this changes the fact that at age 28, someone is dying.
The details are astonishingly lugubrious: cancer (normal kind, if such a thing exists), unsuccessful treatments, more unsuccessful treatments, cancer (terminal kind), hospice. I saw pictures this week of a wedding my friend’s family threw her sister — she “married” her best friend. It was beautiful.
I, of course, was not invited. Nor did I hope I would be — I’m a voyeur to the story, an outsider looking in on what can only be the most soul-crushing ordeal a family can go through. I hear occasional bits of sadness, more occasional shreds of laughter, and a general blanket of heartbreak that muffles hints of hope.
What does it mean to know the echo of a person? To know someone no more in life than you will in death? To stand idly by to grief and anguish, unable to direct my sadness at anything specific because I don’t know anything specific, and instead just feeling that the universe is doing someone, somewhere a terrible, terrible disservice? To feel the ripples of a person’s life, but to have never seen the stone or the throw or the impact?
With nothing lost comes nothing to mourn, and with nothing to mourn comes only melancholy.
At the end of this hospice care, no one I know will leave, nothing I know will change. And yet, nothing in the world will be the same.