Sometimes a deeply held story changes in a heartbeat. Or the cessation of one.
Christopher, a fellow parent in our intimate Waldorf community, died of a heart attack a few days after his 54th birthday while preparing dinner for his family. As we’d each had a daughter in the same class for 13 years, I knew Christopher in simple, consistent ways: attending parent meetings; co-volunteering at school events; dressed-up and handsome at the annual Spring Benefit, his beloved wife, K., a Waldorf kindergarten teacher, transformed in evening attire.
Over time, we’d shared more direct conversations about our daughters, as they navigated first employment, shared trips to music festivals, and the “what’s next after high school” trajectory. I found him caring, thoughtful, and articulate. In particular, I witnessed and felt how much he loved his three daughters.
I learned Christopher had died on my way to work, my car pulled over to take the call from my husband. When he asked: “Where are you?” in the universal ‘brace yourself’ tone, I immediately asked about our daughters. He told me in one, short sentence. Then paused.
Stunning loss is always the same. The words initially crash against belief, not permeating, then linger in the air, bouncing back and forth between belief and the glass wall of denial. Eventually, as has to happen when enough belief penetrates, is utterly inescapable, the tears and sobs follow. When the first response begins to fade, your vision clearing, the landscape is forever changed. One friend down. And most importantly, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a best friend, all down, and all those loved ones grieving in disbelief and despair.
Later on, I envisioned Christopher as he woke up on the day of his death. Innocent. Another Monday. I wondered how he started the day, what clothes he chose, his last moments and interactions with his wife and daughters. All familiar and without the knowledge he was walking a final path, that these simple actions and interactions were finite, precious. Nothing could be unwritten or changed. Never suspecting that before the night ended, before dinner could be shared, he would be gone. Irrationally, a part of me wanted him to know, to be able to fill these hours with as much love as he might have wanted to. Later on, a part of me wanted to remember…