Amber, You Died

An hour or so ago, I stepped out of the house to take an evening stroll.  This, it seems, is an unusual event for just about anybody this time of year.  It gets dark mid-afternoon and the temperature drops and the people disappear; they go somewhere but they’re no longer pedestrians.  I, too, am outside rarely now.  It was brisk but not frigid.  The sidewalks, being vacant, were also silent.  The cold, dark air sent every sound intact to my ears–the crunching of the leaves, the hiss of the light wind.  I studied the street lights’ faint glows as I walked past them, wondering who they shone for on this barren evening.  Television glows, like mini auroras, illuminated most of the ground floor windows.  I felt ensconced by the darkness; enclosed but not stifled.  The streets were like chilly wombs.

Amber, you died.  It wasn’t a shock–probably not even to you–but it’s still hard to believe.  It would be fair to say we didn’t know each other well; we worked together, briefly, seven or so years ago, and after that never saw each other in person again, but we communicated frequently (off and on) via electronic and written means.  But we didn’t know each other well still, because we only ever conversed about one subject.  Amber, you tried.  You tried so hard, I could barely stand to hear about how hard it was for you.  You tried so hard.

Your funeral was four days ago but I wasn’t able to be there.  I wanted to be.  I wanted to see your parents, and you.  I understood you.  The morning of your funeral I had to go to a training class for my new job.  It was an hour and a half away and it was a very wet and foggy morning and I thought of you as I drove there, as the fog kept stretching out before me, obscuring the tiny mountaintops on either side of the highway.  It was a dreary morning and it seemed appropriate.  I’m sorry I wasn’t there.

The older I get, obviously, the more people I know who die. Sometimes it seems like the list is growing rapidly.  Each time, it is disconcerting how easily people seem to take the event; sure, folks are upset that someone died, but if they weren’t extremely close or related to you, it might be an event that gets remarked upon, discussed briefly, and then perhaps dropped from discussion for the most part.  The deceased might be thought of in quiet, solitary moments, or memorialized in sappy throwback-Thursday Facebook pictures, but generally speaking, after some initial sadness, the dead are just the dead, and the living are the living.  It is disconcerting, but I’m not sure if there is another way to work it.

I could spend lots of time recounting the things we talked about, the things you told me, the many different ways I tried to approach the subject, but none of that history matters any more now than it did then.  I could groan about how I feel bad for not helping you more, how I shoulder blame for you dying–but everyone always does, of course I do, and of course I shouldn’t.  The nexus of this moment right now for me, Amber, is that I can’t stop thinking about how you died, and what it must have been like for you in those moments.  The depth of your pain and your desperation, and what you must have known.  What did you think of as you slipped away?  Did you know you’d never be back?  Was there–oh god–was there finally an easing of your burden in your last moments?  It is more than I can bear to think of.

If I were to write your parents a letter–which I might do still–there would be many things I’d like to tell them, many of which I don’t have ready to put into words yet.  But there are a few that I know:

There really was nothing you could have done.  Everybody says that to people in your position all the time, but I want you to know: it is not always the truth, but it is the truth now.  There was nothing you could have done.  There was nothing Amber could have done.  There was nothing I or any counselor or facility or even the penal system could have done.  Your daughter was gripped by something the likes of which I have never borne witness.  The strength of the affliction was beyond hope.  This might not make you feel better, but it’s the truth.  I’m by no means an expert but I know this to be true.  But also: throughout all her pain, and bottomless suffering, Amber shone a light of purity that nothing could extinguish.  She wrote me a little over a week before she died and she was still in love with that dog of her’s–what was that dog’s name?–the dog that is also dead now, she never stopped loving him, like the purest little girl hugging a blanket.  And horses.  And Olsen twin movies.  She held her things close to her and kept her flame alive, somewhere deep inside the onslaught.  I’m not sure what kind of lessons or truths we can get out of all that.  Like I said, I didn’t know her very well.  But I know those things about her.

Amber, you died.  I didn’t want you to think we didn’t notice.


One Response to “Amber, You Died”

  1. <3

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