Where is death one year later?
The truth is I don’t know.
My nephew died. It’s been a year. Emotionally, it was yesterday. I screamed so loudly and fell to my knees when his brother called that day and said ... I actually cannot recall exactly what he said. Odd how you think you'll never forget. But I simply couldn’t comprehend the words coming through the phone. Nothing made sense. My body knew what my mind refused to know. The impossible. At an impossible age. For impossible reasons.
Danny had died of a seizure. How insane was that? Enough that I couldn’t get off the floor. He couldn’t. I couldn’t. Only now as I write this do I understand why I laid there until they picked me up. I recall feeling puzzled that anyone could move at all.
Time was standing still. But in reality it was only still for him.
Danny died too young. Maybe this is true for everyone – whether they still need a few more hours. Or days. Or years.
Too young. Too soon.
But he died having conquered so many fears. Having lived more than the three decades that declared his true age. Having reached a pinnacle in his career – a career that he defined, that he quite literally wrote the book on.
He had colleagues – older and younger – who were in awe of him and still liked him. He had students that he inspired into majors and careers that they might never have pursued.
Hell, he started a blog before I knew what the word meant or how to find it online or whether it “was safe” to even read one. He owned a website long before everyone claimed a domain name just in case they’d need it later. He was forward thinking about where technology and student journalism would meet.
He traveled around the whole damn world having overcome a fear of flying so severe that most others stay grounded and never know the cultures and dramas beyond their 200-mile radius or outside the politics of their own country. He was terrified and he flew anyway. While the destination was the goal, the need – the craving – to know more was the motivating factor to get him there. So he went.
Maybe he had more places to go and more to give but he managed to get to a “there” that many of us never even know to dream about.
He discovered. He wrote. He lived.
Every minute of his life.
Death, I’ve learned, can bring us closer. Death, I’ve learned can divide us. Unexpectedly.
And coping with death, I’ve learned, is that personal. Danny's death drove many within our family to different ends of despair. I miss him. In that painful, indescribable way. And I also miss many who loved him but who are now no longer in touch. Thankfully, they haven’t died, but they are, sadly, nearly as gone. There is no describing those levels of grief either.
One year later. Danny still hasn’t called me. That’s not unlike him. If you had been related, if you had known him, then you knew: he might not return a call, a text, an email for a year. Maybe more. And because I loved him, because I just knew that he loved me back, I didn’t mind. On any random day, his number might have popped up on my caller ID. “Hey, you?!”, I would have said without a sharp intonation, without a threat of where-the-hell-have-you-been. I would have just proclaimed, “Hey, you?!” as a peace offering of sorts and continued on as if I’d spoken to him last week. We would have chatted and caught up and we would have made plans to see each other. Of course, I would have known that the likelihood of him actually showing up was very small but I would made those plans just the same.
The thing is that now <sigh>, well, it's just ... I see Danny in crowds – impossible. I see him in articles that he is quoted in – forever possible. I see him in random pictures that pop up unexpectedly even though it’s not always him – but dammit, it could have been (and sometimes is). At times, I laugh at his audacity – it’s just like him. At times, I cry at his insensitivity – how could he not know how much his absence hurts my presence?
And, true confession here: I am still certain he will call.
I’m just not surprised he hasn’t.
Not because he’s died. It’s because he’s still Danny. He’ll always be. And so, he may call still – that’s what my heart chooses to believe even as I am certain that I sat with him at the funeral home and looked at his picture over his coffin. Stunned. “Where the hell are you?” I had thought. “So not funny,” I had thought. I’d have been furious if he had jumped out from behind the nonexistent curtain. But I would surely have hugged him hard. And I’d have been afraid to let him go again without making plans that he would keep this time.
That was Danny.
As he will always be.
And that is me. I’ll just let him know this time that I’m pissed he hasn’t called in so long but that I’m glad to have a chance to tell him about his amazing cousins, about what we have all been up to, and then I’ll ask him what he has been doing. He’ll likely reply as he always did, “Not much.”
Not until he died did I really hear about his life.
Talk about serious deflection issues! (I'd like to talk to him about that.)
My phone is ringing now as I try to finish what he started: this blog. That’s the kind of timing he has.
Just in case, I’m ready.
It’s still not him.
Maybe the next call.