Harper Lee died today, and that has me a lot more bummed than I would like to be.
So I pour a cup of coffee and I take it with me to sit on the stoop at Fire Station B, where a fierce Spring wind is scouring the prairie, warm enough to plant images of dandelions over the last vestiges of gray February snow.
I shouldn’t be so unhappy over the loss of someone I’ve never met, but I feel bruised inside, and I want . . . My fingers comb my pockets for the memory of cigarettes and come up with a small scrap of creased paper
Ah. I know what it is without opening it, so I leave it folded and return it to my pocket without looking at it.
The paper has last week’s accident victim’s name on it. She had a funny name, foreign, and I had scrawled it out painstakingly at the ER in order to have it with me when we did the report. I’ve actually washed these pants twice since that encounter, and each time I return the paper to the pocket without asking myself why.
Evidence of burn out maybe.
Maybe coping mechanisms slipping just a little.
No matter. The patient died, and now she is here with me while I think about Harper Lee.
That dead woman colored my childhood. Her words strung through my soul like the gentle drift of fireflies and illuminated within me the biggest desire of my life. The desire to write, to create . . . to take a piece of my own humanity and keep it, lovely and forever preserved for anyone who wanted to come in and look.
Lovely and forever.
So there it is. These deaths – the accident victim, the death of my beloved hero author – highlight nothing so much as the fleeting nature of life and the way we try so hard to hang onto it. We set the book on the shelf and we keep the paper scraps in our pockets and we pretend we know nothing at all of who God is and where the dead people go.
They do go. They do.
And that is okay; it is in fact exactly as it should be.
My fingers find the paper scrap, wad it carefully into a tiny ball and toss it into the wind.
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