When I was ten or so my cousin died in a scuba diving accident in Australia. I remember going to my aunt’s house and seeing a cardboard package sitting on the counter that the mailman had just delivered from the Australian government. It held my cousin’s remains. As I looked at it I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for my aunt, and from that point on things always felt different around her. Everyone could be laughing and having a great time, but if a scene featuring scuba diving came on the television, or if there was a mention of someone passing too soon, a tension could be felt in the room. Though everyone would try their best to continue laughing and smiling, what happened was never far from anyone’s mind.
A few years later the sister of one of my junior high classmates died in a car crash. When my classmate returned to school I couldn’t imagine what she was going through. Sometimes I would end up behind her in the lunch line and we’d chat a little. As we exchanged pleasantries, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about how she had lost her sister. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. I remember a rowdy assembly where a number of kids addressed the school, and each had to speak over muffled heckles and scattered chatter…that is until the girl whose sister died stepped to the microphone. Then there was perfect silence. When she finished and started off the stage, the chatter and heckling returned. As with my aunt, things with this girl were now different.
Until the events of April I still couldn’t imagine what people like my aunt and former classmate went through. Not anymore. Now I am the person that causes a hush to fall when I enter a room, now I am the one who is the recipient of sad smiles and forced gaiety, and when there is a mention of parenting or a child who passed away, I can feel the tension fall over those around me.
It’s okay though. I understand it and don’t expect anyone to act any differently. I acted the same way, and really, there is no other way for anyone to act. Things are different. I am different. My life is different.