Life is short.

Yesterday I arrived home from work and sat in the car, letting the NPR story finish, attention caught by a piece about apartment rents in San Francisco. The economic analyst in me still lives beneath the surface. That and I often sit in the car to let a story finish.

This time, however, I looked up to see Alex coming to my window. Odd, I thought. Maybe he is wondering why I am still sitting here, alone in my car.

Then I saw his face and I knew something was wrong. My thoughts raced, he didn’t want to talk until we got inside. I couldn’t wait.

“Is someone dead?” I asked, a bit panicked.

“Yes.”

Before I even had time to ask who, he told me. A friend’s wife. Her heart stopped without explanation as she sat in the car in front of her house before she came in from work. Unexpected. Tragic. Heart breaking.

Now before you offer your condolences, please know, they are misdirected at me. I am deeply saddened by our friend’s loss, but I only knew her from weddings, brief interactions. For me, the sadness is in knowing how devastated Alex’s long-time friend must feel. This is the guy who was a big brother to Alex, let us borrow his super-fast Mustang to drive to prom, helped me learn to work on my own 5.0 Mustang a year or so later.

I cannot even begin to imagine what he must be feeling right now. How deep his grief must be. She also had a son.

Life is so unpredictable, so fleeting. Since Alex shared the news with me, I have been haunted by this quiet whisper of nothing lasts forever, nothing is certain. For Alex the haunting is something more jarring. It changed the way he looks at me. His eyes clinging to the present. His friend’s forlorn words on the other side of the phone still fresh in his mind.

There have been other losses in our relationship, but this is the only one that has ever made him look at me differently. That alone has followed me around all day, tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me. Life is short.

Tonight I just want to remind you to hold those close to you a little tighter and tell them you love them. That’s my plan.

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13 thoughts on “Life is short.

  1. Concerning subject matter, we seem to be inside each other’s brains lately. Well said, my friend.

  2. kingmidget says:

    Interesting … last night I read a story in Sports Illustrated. If I could link to it, I would, but it’s behind their subscribers wall. It’s about a high school senior, star pitcher for the baseball team, all around good kid (no drugs, alcohol), girlfriend is the homecoming queen. After the prom, he takes a turn too fast, slams into a tree and both he and his girlfriend are killed. The story then goes on to tell how the baseball team then improbably went on to win their first state championship in 37 years without their best player. But what absolutely killed me and left me in tears was the consequence of those two kids premature death and the thoughts of the incredible loss their families felt and will continue to feel. I thought of posting about it — much along the same lines as what you posted as well as for the idea that none of us are nearly as invincible as we think we are.
    Thank you for sharing this. It’s amazing how it came along at the same time as I’m still struggling with that article and my own feelings about the days and months and years of my life, as short as it is, that keep running through my fingers.

    • Shandell Solbach says:

      So sorry Olivia and Alex. I empathize with you. This reminded me of the time I had to share the shocking news of the sudden death of Guerren’s childhood best friend. I will never forget his heartbreaking face when I told him. I struggle with the reality of how life is too short often, especially after having children. We sure need to value each day we have together. Take care and hugs from me.

      • oliviaobryon says:

        PS. Shandell, thanks for your empathy. I can’t imagine having to tell Alex that kind of news. That would break my heart apart. You were strong to be able to. When Alex said someone died, I was so afraid to hear who. That moment of waiting was torture. There is no good way to have to tell someone that they’ve lost someone they care about. Give those beautiful children of yours a big hug with Uncle Alex and Auntie O 🙂

    • oliviaobryon says:

      It is interesting how so many of us grapple with similar themes simultaneously. The story you shared is also heartbreaking. The only way I can make sense of any of it is by clinging on to life that much tighter. Sometimes I forget to hold on. At least for a little while now, I won’t. I had a similar sensation driving home from my mom’s last week. Everything was poignant and alive, even the trash blowing in the wind along the side of the freeway. I wish I could always be that present.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. It is tough to watch death change things around us, even when it is not DIRECTLY related to us. This happened for me this summer, a friend lost her husband and although I didn’t know him well (I actually don’t know her that well either to be honest) it really hit me hard and you do look at the world and the people in it a little differently. Again, thanks for being brave enough to share your thoughts on this with us.
    E

    • oliviaobryon says:

      I really appreciate your comment, it helps me feel that posting this was worthwhile. I grappled a bit with whether or not to post. I didn’t want to seem like I was seeking attention for a tragedy that did not belong to me. However, it still shook me even if it was not mine. It is really interesting how different losses hit us. Closer ones are sometimes so close that we’re left stunned and less able to reflect. However, sometimes when the people in our lives are shaken, it shakes us too. Thank you for reaching out and connecting, it is nice to feel less alone.

  4. Seb says:

    It maybe short, but it still the longest thing any of us will ever experience.

  5. Having just lost my grandpa, I’ve realized that most of my grief comes from the thought that my grandma no longer has her companion of so many years. Then again, my grandparents were a little more ready to face this day, as they are in their mid-80’s… My thoughts are with your husband, and especially his friend.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      I felt the same way when my grandma lost my grandpa a little over a decade ago. It broke my heart to think of her without him, to see her alone. She grieved but she also created a new life for herself on her own. I hope your grandma is able to do the same. I wish you and your family peace and healing.

      Thank you for the kind thoughts for our friend. It was very hard seeing him at her service today. Life is so unpredictable. It takes a lot of strength to accept this.

  6. Melinda says:

    Beautifully written and, personally, a well-timed post. Like many of the previous commenters, I am also grappling with this subject matter right now. You put into lovely words many of the same thoughts that have been running around in my head, thank you.

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