16.6.09

Good Grief

I found out today that a girl I knew in junior high died of cancer a few months ago. She and I weren't friends. We were, at best, frienemies. We were part of the same group of friends, but we had a tacit hatred for one another. We tolerated each other and always included the other in party invitations and social events because of our common friends, but we would never have been alone together under any circumstance.

As an adult, I realize we were a lot alike and that was why we didn't like each other. At the time, though, I just didn't like her and she didn't like me. I think the last time I saw her was 18 years ago at a party.

I never anticipated that hearing about her death would make me cry. But it did. I cried pretty hard for a little while.

I'm not, by nature, a crier. So the unexpected immediacy of the tears that poured out of me was (and is) really disconcerting. I still don't quite know what it was all about.

I don't mean that I don't feel sad for her family. I do. I am sad that her parents outlived their only daughter. I'm sorry that her husband is left with two little boys who won't remember their mother. But those are abstract feelings. It doesn't justify sobs. I have experienced no loss. This is a woman I didn't know at all anymore and hadn't even really thought about for almost two decades.

Obviously, I wasn't crying for Therese. I was crying about something the knowledge of her death touched inside of me. But what that something is eludes me. It is much on my mind, though. Matt has suggested that it was because of the "it-could-have-been-me" syndrome. I don't think it is, though.

I'm well aware of my own mortality. From the time I can remember, I have contemplated my death. I won't go so far as to say I'm ready to die, but I have come to terms with the fact that I will die and that that day could come today. Still, here I sat bawling, my body shaking, upon learning of the death of a virtual stranger.

I guess I can safely attribute some of it to the fact that I needed to cry. Since Matt and I have been together again, I haven't observed my old crying rituals. I used to make myself cry - not shaking sobs, but free-flowing tears. Once a month of so, I would watch Out of Africa (one of the greatest movies ever), or listen to Les Mis, or read the end of A Prayer for Owen Meany, or do some other tear-jerking thing and I would just cry.

I still don't know why I broke open so abruptly and forcefully today, though. I'll keep working on the why and comfort myself with the knowledge that it was what I needed to do.

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