In the evening, just as I’m about to go to bed, I decide to check my email. You should never do this. At least I shouldn’t. Because often, checking my email leads to going on Facebook to check messages that haven’t yet reached my inbox, and sometimes there is one or two, and I read those, and then something makes me click on the beautiful photograph of the girl on a horse washed in sunlight, just so I can check for one teeny second if they’re giving away free Photoshop actions, which they are not, but then I click the arrow and scroll through to the next photo—a girl with balloons in a field, and the clouds behind her look almost bruised, and just as I’m thinking that I should really get myself a better camera, the little chat light will beep, and I will sigh and remember that I’ve been meaning to turn the chat option off, because although I like the people who chat with me, if it’s before bed, I don’t like chatting, no matter who it is. But I’ll chat with them for a bit anyway, and then I’ll say I’m off to bed and they’ll say nighty-night and then I’ll look up at the clock on the stove and realize that a whole 40 minutes has just been gouged out of my life and I’m not feeling nearly as relaxed as I was before. So I’ll make tea and read for a while, and tell myself NOT to check email before bed.
This is what happened last night, except when I got to the part about facebook chat, I saw that it was an old, dear friend named E and all she said was Did you hear about Danielle Heigh?
No, I typed. Is she okay?
I braced myself for the answer, because right then I remembered that last summer, I’d heard that she – a sweet friend I’d spent a good part of my early teens with – had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
She passed away last week, E said. She left a husband and three kids. The whole thing is very very sad.
E and I chatted for a while about it, and then we said goodnight, and I went to bed, batting away sadness.
At 6 am, Ryn called me in a small, scared voice from her room at the end of the hall. I got up and stumbled through the darkness, clicked on the bathroom light-switch, poked my head in her doorway. Everything okay?
I had the scariest nightmare ever, she said. Come and lay with me.
I went and laid down next to her, wrapped my arms around her ribs.
What was the bad dream about? I mumbled into her shoulder.
I dreamed the government had hired bad people and they were killing all the mothers, she said.
I squeezed her tight, said Oh, that sounds horrible. It was just a bad dream. But really, I was thinking: Danielle Heigh. Her kids. Her husband.
I held Ryn until she fell back to sleep, and then I went back to bed.
I woke at 7 with a headache, popped some aspirin, got the girls off to the bus and went back to bed again.
It’s afternoon now, and I look out at the fingers of rock stretching into the bay. The screen door swings in the wind. The clouds look almost bruised. The sun keeps coming out, but it doesn’t stay. Even the cat won’t stay, keeps climbing off my lap. There are daffodils opening in the yard, and a few bright purple crocuses. Blossoms on the Ornamental Cherry tree. But all I can think about are those bruised clouds. It reminded me of a line in a poem by Matt Rader: But the children do not know . . . just how sad/ Beauty is on the last day of spring with instruments/ And young players making music between the rafters.
I’ve been reading a lot of Pema Chodron lately. She teaches something called Maitri, a prayer-like stance where you move toward the painful emotions instead of away from them. You let yourself feel them, and then you make a wish for peace and love for that person or situation. May they be well. May they be comforted.
I hate the way sorrow comes like this and interrupts everything. I had plans today—writing, reading, studying, a project finished up. Instead, half-way through the afternoon, the headache has subsided but I’m still wading through sadness. I know myself well enough now to know that it’s useless to fight it. Instead I’ll take a slow walk down to the beach. Drink too many cups of tea. Let myself feel the sorrow of this loss and walk around, wishing: May her family be well. May they be comforted. May no child ever lose their mother again.