I cried when I found out. She has a husband. She has a daughter not too much older than mine. She got married two weeks before I did. She's four months older than me.
When you think about a 10-year high school reunion, you think that some may not be there because of work or travel. You might even think about that one kid who's probably doing time behind bars.
You don't think that someone won't be there because she's dead.
Even that word--dead--I just...It's as if it's a swear word.
But it's not.
I wasn't as close to her as many others were, but it's safe to say I'm still in denial. While I plan on attending her funeral, I'm not fully comfortable attending the viewing because I'm not sure if I'm ready for that. I'm not sure if I'm ready to have visible proof that someone my age whom I conversed and laughed with is no longer physically on the Earth.
My grandparents weren't even teenagers in Germany when WWII knocked at their front doors. They learned long ago that death is part of life. It happens to all. It is the way of things. Even so, when my grandma told me of her father's recent passing, she very quietly said, "I'm an orphan." I was too young at the time to fully comprehend the prism of meaning behind that, but the sadness in both her voice and her eyes has never left my memory.
Conceptually, I also know that death has happened, happens, and will happen to all. I also believe that there is life after death and that we will see our dearly departed friends and family again.
But I've learned that conceptual knowledge doesn't change the reality of sadness, mixed emotions, and reflection that come when you finally experience it for yourself.
It doesn't change the fact that even though I believe in a God who knows what he's doing, I'm still wondering "Why now? Why her?"
It doesn't change that fact that I have to learn how I personally cope with situations like this, for it will not be an isolated occurrence in my life.
But I do know that without pain (be it physical, spiritual or emotional), we would never truly understand what happiness and joy feels like. Without pain, we would begin to take the many good things--and people--in our lives for granted, forgetting how blessed we actually are. The grief that comes with death is one of the hardest, yet surest ways to remind us of this.