How sheer the veil is between this life and another

Matt has had a lovely assistant, M, for four years. I’ve spoken to her thousands of times (at least) on the phone, and I finally met her a couple of weeks ago at the firm’s summer event in Chatham. She was friendly and warm, her voice familiar even though her face was new.

M died last night. She was 39 and left two children in their early teens. It was entirely unexpected.

I feel sad today, for her, for her family, for the abrupt loss of someone who had so much ahead of her. I feel as though something chilly has brushed past me in the dark, something I can’t see but something I can feel. Yesterday, I spoke to her. Today, she is gone. Where? My mind still struggles with this truth, which is maddeningly abstract and painfully concrete at the same time.

I also feel keenly, shiveringly aware of how close we all tread to the line of our worst nightmares every single day. The yawning terror of what might be, of that we most dread, exists just off to the side of our lives, and though we skirt it and forget it it still threatens. We live on the precipice, walk on a tightrope, exist in a world where the boundary between normal and tragedy is far more gossamer and fragile than we ever let ourselves imagine.

Death has actually been on my mind since my Aunt E’s funeral, actually, and since a dear friend lost his mother unexpectedly in July. As I sat in the pew at my aunt’s memorial service, I thought about how there are many more funerals ahead of me than behind me. And when my friend’s mother died I had an eerie sense of what is to come as the generations fold and my peers and I take our place at the head of the line. Both of these thoughts give me goosebumps, and not in a good way.

I’m sorry for this not-at-all-upbeat post. It seems incongruous, as I sit here on vacation, waiting to pick my boisterous, tired, and sunburned children up from the bus that bears them back from summer camp. But that is the point, I guess: to remember, always, how sheer the veil is between this life and another, between good news and terrible, between just another regular day and the day it all grinds to a halt.

There’s only one way to honor those who have stepped through this veil, one way to turn this tragic reality that flickers at the edges of our experience: to use the awareness of what might be, and of the proximity of the chasm, to heighten our awareness and celebration of the days that we remain safe. To remember, always, those trite sayings that are also so achingly true: today is all we have. Seize it. Take nothing for granted.

I’ll be hugging these two extra hard when they get off the bus today.

22 thoughts on “How sheer the veil is between this life and another”

  1. I am reminded of this on a regular basis. I work in the church office of a church with a much older congregation, and we have many more funerals than we do weddings. It is a tough thing to have to deal with on a constant basis.

    The best thing we can do is to hold tight to those we love, and to make sure that we never leave a loving word unsaid.

  2. Hauntingly beautiful and a powerful reminder. “…as the generations fold and my peers and I take our place at the head of the line”. Wow. And yes, these thoughts and words also give me not-so-good goosebumps.

  3. lovely if haunted words. And yes, I agree that this is well-put, “as the generations fold and my peers and I take our place at the head of the line”. It makes me very sad as I contemplate this, esp as an only child. Even if it’s how the world is supposed to work, the very thought of it chills me. I too work somewhere where a weekly email reminds us of who is ill, has lost loved ones etc and it all is so precarious. I often think the “world is too much with me” and how glad I am my three year old is still so unknowing.

  4. Oh, how sheer indeed. This is such a beautiful and tragic reminder. I, too, had 2 colleagues pass suddenly this summer. Life is short, even at its longest. Here’s a hug for you.

  5. This post resonates with me. Since my father’s passing last year, I realize how the pendulum can shift in one direction or another. I’ve thought about how quick trajedy can strike and how by the grace of god we all live and breathe. Thank you for this post.

  6. How sheer the veil is indeed.

    This post reminds me of the Matt Kearney song “Closer to Love.” It includes the line “I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees.” For the longest time (and sometimes still) I couldn’t listen to that song. I couldn’t hear those lyrics without emotionally going to that place, that phone call, that vision of the worst news I could possibly imagine.

    I too will hug my family extra tight tonight. My condolences to Matt, and to M’s family on what must be a crushing loss.

  7. This I know only too well. How suddenly a life can change, and how intensely that change can affect others. For it’s not just about how we live for ourselves, but also about how we live our life with others. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and I suspect most never do.

    Very poignant Lindsey. This really touched me.

  8. Lindsey-
    Thank you for a good reminder of the fragility of life and the importance on focusing on what (or maybe more appropriately who) really matters most.
    Your post brought tears to my eyes.
    Your friend,

  9. So beautifully expressed. Yes, we hug our kids tighter and I believe that our happiness is more complete when we allow ourselves to feel the underlying sadness that’s always there, just beneath the surface of even our best moments. It’s that knowledge that life is fleeting that also makes it sweet. Thanks for a poignant reminder.

  10. A beautiful, poignant post. I am very much aware of the fragility of this life, and try not to dwell on the what-if’s. Being a parent gifted me with a fear I did not know I possessed and I try not to let the fear show through.
    Sweet Juniper’s blog today touched on a similar vein, as did Amy Kraus-Rosenthal’s – so many beautiful posts expressing the tightness I feel in my own chest every day.
    Yes, hugging our lovely children is the best antidote.

  11. I don’t think you should apologize for writing this because it isn’t depressing, dark, or any other adjective of that word. It is real and true and part of life. Death. Something that comes and steals life at any point, ready or not.

    I, too, will hug my kids extra hard today.

  12. L – I appreciated reading this post. Yes, the veil is so thin. I have been thinking about death, too, lately…not in some morbid way…and a blog post has been sitting in my heart about this — it hasn’t fully risen up to my conscious mind and into words quite yet. When it does, I’ll share w/ you. Having just had our second baby, it struck me again how BIRTH brings up it’s opposite for me – death. It makes me sit with the fragility of life…and also the tenacity of life. I’m moved by the “relationship” between birth and death — how they “work” with each other. See, my thoughts aren’t all there yet…still lingering in my heart. Blessings to you, Lisa

  13. Lindsey-
    I arrived at your blog thru Corinne’s blog….well and had to keep reading. Thank you for sharing this post. It is good to be reminded of the nearness of things that are not the everyday…and sometimes those things are tradgedy and bring heart ache.
    I’m sure your little ones get lots of extra hugs you don’t even realize you’re giving them.
    I hope today is feeling more joyful and ordinary.

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