Content warning: death and grief. Please feel free to skip if that’s not your vibe right now.
It’s been a tough few days.
Last Friday, the morning started quietly. I got up as usual, fed my mewling kitty, made myself some coffee, and sat down in the “office” part of my apartment. I checked all the slack messages that had accumulated after hours, chatted with a coworker about office chairs (Should I buy this $500 chair? My back says yes but my bank account says no!), updated the engineering handbook, started to bury myself into the day’s work.
At some point, I looked back at slack, and read a message sent to my whole organization. I read it again. And again. It didn’t make any sense. It was telling me that my coworker, Andrew Hyder, was dead. I’d talked to him two days ago. He passed away suddenly. I reread the name again. It didn’t make any sense. I had a meeting with him that afternoon. My brain refused to compute.
It still doesn’t make any sense. Death doesn’t make any sense. I felt completely, absolutely gutted. I still do. He was a kind person; a thoughtful person. He worked in civic tech for much much longer than I have, and has had the kind of impact I dream of having. I didn’t know him that well, but I’m grateful that our lives touched. I was always floored — and grateful — by how genuine he was, even in the smallest of interactions.
I keep fucking up the tenses and having to change them.
There are so many strange layers to grief. It’s hard to know what to do, how to process it, when it touches your life. And how do you move forward when you can’t assemble, when you can’t sit with others in grief? I’ve never even met any of my coworkers in physical space.
Andrew was a person worthy of grief (we’re all people worthy of grief), but my absolute heartbreak isn’t all about him. The past year has been so hard. I’ve been extremely lucky, and my personal losses have been thankfully few, but I see the pain of it written on faces everywhere. I’ve been numb to it because the alternative is to lose my mind all the time, but his loss feels like a proxy for all these other losses. It breathed enough heat to crack through the the ice around my heart, and plunge me into the depths. (Forgive this tortured metaphor.)
I don’t know how tall Andrew is, and now I’ll never know, and that makes my heart twist and ache in a strange and specific way that makes it hard to breathe.
On Friday night, I crawled into bed. I had a bad headache (The pollen is brutal this year; my sinuses have been killing me.) and felt kind of nauseous from not eating well all day. But I couldn’t settle down enough for sleep to take me. Finally, I realized that my day was not quite over; that my heart wanted to do something more, a death ritual.
I got out of bed, went over to my tarot altar (yes I have a tarot altar we can talk about it some other time) and pulled out a candle. I sifted through my tarot deck, and grabbed two of the major arcana: the sun, for the warm rays of Andrew’s emanating energy, and the world, to signify a completed journey. I shuffled and drew one more perfect card, the three of cups; the card of friendship and celebration and emotional connection. I lit the candle, and said a little prayer, wishing his spirit a safe journey.
Nary made me and Rebecca breakfast on Saturday morning. It felt extremely weird to go inside someone’s apartment, take off my mask, and eat food. It was also exactly what I needed.
I had the Green New Deal ice cream at Sugar Hill Creamery which is made with sweet peas and rhubarb and was incredibly delicious.
Go watch Ted Lasso, it’s exactly the kind of happiness infusion my brain needed.
What I’ve been Reading:
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner:
Listen, I am just really done reading about shitty people, especially shitty men. There are three narratives woven through this book, and two of them are women who have centered their lives around shitty men. Are they going to break free in the end? No spoilers here but I would love to read a book (that’s not YA! YA seems to understand men don’t have to be complete pieces of shit!) in which there was a kind, supportive man who didn’t have to be at the center of things. If anyone has suggestions about books where everyone is just kind and supportive, please send them my way. Oh — this book was fine. I didn’t like it that much but mostly I was just annoyed at the men!
The Truth Commission by Susan Juby:
A bunch of secrets in an art school! Teen romance! A weird structure that pretends to be narrative non-fiction school project! Lots of things appealed to me about this book, which is about a bunch of kids who decide it’s “important” to start asking other people explicitly about things not often talked about, like “Did you get plastic surgery done over the summer?” While asking the questions feels exhilarating to Normandy’s friends, she’s a little more circumspect. What might they be unleashing in their search to ask for truth? The truth does set them free, but in ways that none of them anticipate. It’s not a great book, but I had a good time reading it.
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe:
Well, this book made me even angrier than I anticipated! I had full nights of sleep interrupted because I read it right before bed and I couldn’t stop thinking about what absolute shit bags they are. TLDR: They knew *before* they released the drug (which they did by cultivating a relationship with the FDA agent, who went on to work for Purdue a year later when he left the FDA) that it didn’t last a whole 12 hours, that it had a high possibility of becoming addictive, and actively kept doctors ignorant of (and minimized!) the risks, and they kept data on prescribers that could have been used to stop pill-mills. They’re disgusting people who deserve to be in jail even though I don’t believe in jail. Anyway, book’s good! You should read it if you want to get extremely mad at capitalism.
Every interaction we have with each other is a gift. I know I tell you all I love you ever time I sign off, and I want you to know that I mean it.
Thanks for touching my life. I’m so grateful.
i love you,