Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Last night, after spending a good part of the day blustering and worrying about work, I plopped down on the couch with my college magazine. First thing, I flipped to the back to the class notes and happened to open it to the In Memoriam page. There, I learned that someone from my class, someone that I knew, someone that I actually lived with had died.

"No!" I just about shouted. "Not Karen!" If I shouted, maybe it wouldn't be true.

It's not that Karen and I were good friends. Sophomore year we lived in an apartment with four other women -- six in total. Two of my closest friends in the world, one other very very good friend, me, Karen, and her roommate, who was a good friend to one of my best friends. From the get go, Karen and her roommate didn't get along with everyone else. And second semester we all did best in pairs rather than groups. I remember the one real conversation I had with Karen and one of my best friends. Karen was disturbed by the number of cookies she could eat at a sitting. The number seemed normal to me and my friend. I think we weren't kind.

All this to say, my connection to Karen was attenuated. I thought she was nice; I thought we'd get along better if we weren't in the same apartment (I was a slob, after all, and she was not); I thought she had beautiful, luminous skin. Over the years when I saw her name in the class notes, I was glad to read that she was doing work I knew she'd wanted to do. I hoped she was happy. I wondered at that year we lived together in that apartment. And now she's dead. After a quick google search I learned she died "unexpectedly at age 39."

This happens. I know this happens. I could list several people I know or know about who died too early and completely unexpectedly. When she was home one afternoon. When she got off the treadmill. After she dropped off her daughter at school. It happens. It's terrible.

And it's sobering. Painful and sad and sobering. Life is not kind; Karen is the second woman from that apartment to die. The other, one of my closest friends, died nearly 16 years ago. If you're exceptionally lucky in life, you get to worry about space rocks and work projects and where your kids will go to kindergarten. Maybe if you worry like me, you send up some prayers that Karen and her family know some peace, and then pray (selfishly) that the unexpected doesn't get any closer anytime soon.

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