I drove onto the base around 7:58 yesterday morning– this was much later than for a normal work day, but nothing about yesterday was normal. I wasn’t paying much attention to the drive, my mind was attuned to other things . As I came around the corner, everything was still. All of the cars on the street had stopped and people were standing in place on the sidewalk like someone had pressed paused on our lives.
As I slowed to a stop it took me a minute to realize that this was not an alien invasion; it was only morning Colors- a tradition that happens every morning, at the same time on every military installation around the world. Carry-on was sounded and I continued on my way to work, but the pause lingered. And it remains today.
Death is like that. It feels like everything around you should stop while you put your head under your pillow and curl into your grief. It seems odd that you can feel such sadness, yet there is still laughter in the world. I want to tell the Director to “cut” or “go to commercial break,” or “fade to black.” I want someone to call half-time so we can regroup, or replay Wednesday so we can fix the hurt, or take a knee so I can get a grip, or grab a handle (on the situation), or wrap my mind around the impossibility of it all. I want life to be like the show I watched as a kid, “Out of This World,” where Evie could stop time by putting her index fingers together and fix things while everyone else had paused. If you could just give me one minute…
But time is persistent and insistent — not even Death can make it stop.
When I was a Plebe (Freshmen) at the Naval Academy, we used to do “chow calls” (essentially an alarm going off for sleepy upperclassmen) and we’d yell the entire thing in our loudest, squeakiest voices at rapid-fire speed. The next to last line was “Time, tide, and formation wait for no man.”
Time waits for no man. Or woman for that matter. It doesn’t wait for grief or hurt. It’s like being caught in the crowd at Pamplona. You keep trying to turn to get a look at the magnificent toros, but the press of the crowd is going to carry you forward. There is a temptation to fight the forward momentum, to stop where you are and allow sorrow to wash over you like an ebbing tide (tide waits for no man), but there’s a chance that you might get trampled in the process.
There are many ways to grieve, but I am wary of this listlessness that keeps trying to pause life. The quiet whispers of “stay in bed a little longer,” “just ignore those phone calls,” “No need to write about it this.” I think the way to grieve such an Awful, senseless death is to live.
Not stuck-in-my-iPhone, Law-and-order-SVU-marathon-watching living, but genuine, heartfelt, magnificent Life. Life in high-definition and surround sound an IMAX experience, not the dollar show variety. A life of Faith and love and, above all, hope.