I Have No Idea What to Call This One

and there is no photograph for it, either.

It goes like this:


We were going to the airport. There was no time for anything, we were so late because the weather was bad. Sam was leaving and I was sad about that. I looked at my phone and read some things when we were pulling into the airport. I read that my friend Karen had died and then I looked out the window at the darkness and the snow and I started to cry. Sam thought I was crying because he was leaving, which was partly true, but I was mostly crying because Karen had died. 

The last time I saw Karen we were sitting at her mom's kitchen table. Her mom was very sick at the time, but that day we laughed a lot. Her mom was forgetting a lot of things, words and history. She was trying to come up with the name for the thing when you're tired all the time, chronic fatigue, but instead she called it constant weariness

We thought that was so funny, and then that became a joke for Karen and me ... constant weariness. 

Her mom died not too long after we sat at the table that day.

It felt at times, these past many months, that the whole world was in a state of constant weariness. So much sickness, dying, so much sorrow.

I loved so much the sound of Karen's voice. I still have three voicemail messages from her on my phone and I listen to them like they're contraband, like someone could steal them from me. Often when I'm driving, sometimes at night before I go to sleep. 

I think when someone dies, the word more springs to life. I could have loved you more. I should have spent more time with you. I could have been more tolerant, more available, more forgiving.

Death does this thing, you know. When death comes calling, you don't want more money, more glory, more fame, more "friends," more cashmere sweaters or shoes, more chocolate cake. You want more time. You want more of the smell of their hair, more of the sound of them saying hello, more chances to see them drive up to your house, get out of the car and hug you. 

I was mad at Karen when I found out that she had colon cancer and that she had never had a colonoscopy but I was one to talk because I hadn't had one, either. I was really mad because when she found out about the cancer it was too late. The worst part, worse than the cancer, worse than the too late, was that she was a nurse; she knew better. 

I was too busy taking care of everyone else, was what she said. Which I get. I totally get. 

So what I did was I made an appointment for a colonoscopy because I'm 52 and I hadn't gotten one, either. I didn't want to do it, I didn't want to take the time, didn't want to go through the procedure, but Karen was dying, so I made the appointment. 

By the time the thing came around Karen had already died, that's how fast it all happened, her cancer. 

On the morning of my colonoscopy, I asked Karen to be there with me. I need you, I told her, please be my angel, come with me, hold my hand. I wondered if she would have time, being so new at being an angel and everything. 

The door to the room I was waiting in, laying in the bed waiting, opened and the nurse walked in and I almost burst into tears right then and there. She was the absolute spitting image, though I have no idea why you call it that, spitting image, of Karen. She looked just like her and she sounded just like her and she was kind and funny, just like Karen.

From the bed I stared up at her face, watching her form words and I remembered Karen. I tried so hard to not cry. I looked over at the wall and tried to hold it in, but I couldn't. I started crying and the nurse asked me if I was nervous about the procedure and I said no and then I told her the story of my Karen.

It turned out that the nurse was named Angela.

Colonoscopy, cancer, Karen, nurse, Karen's twin, death, angel, Angela. You don't need complete sentences here to understand what I'm saying. To form something beautiful inside your head that reminds you of the magic and mystery that surrounds us.

If you teach your children anything in this life, teach them to notice things like that. Teach them to really smell the peach before they take a bite and to let the rain fall on their cheeks, to not be afraid to get wet. And also to hold someone's hand. Tell them that crying is really a good thing and show them what that looks like. Help them learn how to live wholly and truthfully and holy so that when someone they love dies maybe they won't have to think so much about more.

It's not a terrible thing to aspire to big things, important things, but don't let them do that so much that they overlook all the beautiful small things, the moments, the kindness, the colors, the angels. 

OK? Amen.