Last week, we became one bright spark dimmer. One always-friendly face less. An embodiment of sweetness & kindness, now gone. The boathouse, dock, and river will be lonelier. An unfinished life now finished.
Last week, the world lost Ann Fitzgerald.
I don't think we ever get used to death, unless perhaps we live in a war zone. Long illness might help us brace ourselves a little more, but if we don't know about the illness, the news comes as much of a shock as a sudden accident.
And death, and its accompanying emotions of surprise and grief, also become puzzling for me when the person wasn't a core part of my life. It's still a loss. There's still grieving. But I find myself not knowing just how to react when the loss is a lighter shade of gray -- not an all-out blackout as when it's someone near & dear, not a pale gray as when it's a celebrity or someone distantly known and the loss is more theoretical or intellectual. It's all those shades of grey in between that get perplexing.
I'm not at the boathouse often these days while the river is still frozen, but I was there yesterday, and found Ann very much in my thoughts. As the ice starts to break up over the water, and rowers' water time is fast approaching, I feel her loss & absence. For a purely recreational sculler, too shy or unsure of her ability to come to the coached sessions, she was braver than I when it came to going out in cold & wind. But she'd never gone into the basin w/ its nearly ever-present windy, choppy conditions, so one time we took a 2x into the basin. It was a gorgeous day, the sky a brilliant blue. I find myself cherishing that memory, that first, I was able to give her.
Going for my weekly volunteering last week, tho I haven't seen her all school year, I find myself cast back to last year when I saw her every week. We'd usually meet in the Trader Joe's parking lot & walk over to the school, chatting about her pottery classes or my jobless/freelancing state. She'd always ask how I was doing, how it was coming. She was always positive & encouraging. Afterward, we'd often head over to the boathouse for a row or maybe an erg, b/c our schedules allowed it.
I never knew she was sick, let alone that it was cancer. I don't know how long she knew, either.
Casting about for some way to honor & memorialize her, perhaps looking for something concrete to mark the loss?, I received an email about a fundraising event for fighting cancer, this year open to rowers for the first time. Not really a competitive event, you can choose the distance, up to 20 miles, & boat size, from a single to an eight. I think she'd love it. I think she'd have wanted to do it. I'll do it for her, wishing I could do it with her instead.