My high school homeroom teacher will never know I associate her with skinned cats.
Mrs. Roman was one of our biology teachers. She was best known for her friendly, calm demeanor; relative youth (only 10 years older than us); and her big physiology project, which was to dissect a cat.
That meant at least two days every year I'd walk into homeroom and get hit with the stench of formaldehyde -- my cue to keep my eyes facing front to avoid seeing the former felines spread out across the lab tables.
Mrs. Roman will never know I associate her with skinned cats because I no longer have the opportunity to tell her. In a tragic example of life's injustice, she succumbed last week to cancer. Only 35, she leaves behind a husband, three young children, and a grieving community.
Unlike with the cats in her classroom, I cannot avoid acknowledging Mrs. Roman's death. I cannot look away or hold my breath. Instead, I grieve for our shared past, years neither of us will see again. I grieve for her children, who will lose her anew at each milestone in their lives. And I grieve for the opportunities we all miss to celebrate life as we're living it.
* * *
When someone dies, do our memories revise? Do we look back and let the person slowly fade, so we can keep the loss and sorrow at arm's length? Or do we keep them in vibrant Technicolor, so that we remember the moments we did right, and can repeat them with others?
None of us can read minds or crystal balls. Yet with death, we all read the writing on the wall, even if the exact details are unknown. May we write toward that ending the best we can, and relish the story as we go.
Prayer #59: Carpe Vitam
To the God who exists outside of Time --
In the fullness of Your grace, help us forget the steady march of days, and instead live in the sacred, eternal now.
You are the promise that our lives will change -- not end -- with death. May our choices and actions help You keep that vow.