I've been kicking around different ideas to write about this week while on the road and staring out at the crashing waves and in bed before I fall asleep, but my brain can't focus on any of them for too long because what I can't stop thinking about is this: tragedy struck our little town this week. A car accident. A recent high school graduate. Painfully premature death. It's all I can think about.
I didn't know the young woman well. I had seen her impressive performances at dance recitals and was certainly aware of her presence in the world. I have been fortunate to get to know her mom and sister through the shop and the Farmers' Market, though, and they're just such dear, loving, warm, wonderful people. I hurt intensely for them and know that's only the faintest shadow of what they're experiencing.
I said to Josh the other day, "I didn't really know her. Why can I not stop thinking about this?" And he said, "Because you have three bright, beautiful daughters, and you're terrified for them."
He nailed it. I am grieving for this family first and foremost. But I'm also grieving for the fact that our world is one where a child can be there one moment and not the next. And I'm grieving for a world where that could happen to my children just as easily as anyone's.
A passage I came across today in Mary Laura Philpott's I Miss You When I Blink captures this grief so well:
Was this the reason I'd started waking up with heart palpitations at 3 a.m.? Because I couldn't stop wondering who would be okay tomorrow and who would not? None of us will be okay, in the end. The not-okay is coming for everyone. It's a wonder we don't all go around with our hands clamped, white-knuckled, around the wrists of our loved ones. A death grip, indeed.
Which is true. Hanging on too tightly to things we don't want to lose imposes its own kind of damage. It curtails independence, stunts growth, suffocates relationships. There's no winning strategy here.
But there is a safeguard, I think, which is to communicate frequently and with specificity why we love our people. How, even though I tell them to turn down their volume, the twins' simultaneous, animated chatter amuses me to no end. How Eliza's jokes are legitimately and impressively funny. How Hazel's poetic, tender heart makes mine ache with recognition. How Phoebe's tiny voice saying, "I luff you," dissolves every grain of complaint inside of me. How Josh's unassuming wisdom is the stabilizing force in my world.
But beyond my immediate family, too, I can list the things I adore about each and every person in my life. And what I appreciate about acquaintances I'd love to get to know better. And what I admire, too, about strangers in the world I've never gotten to meet.
Being told why we matter to others makes life better. It just does. It is invaluable to know why and how we're all loved, what it is that others see in us that we may not even recognize in ourselves. Life is too short not to tell people how they have impacted us, because of fear or inertia or a perceived lack of time.
Which is why letters retain such a hold on me. They're a form of attention to someone you hold dear, an articulation of something far beyond whatever is said on paper. In a form that can be tied in a bundle and revisited and saved until the paper yellows and the handwriting is clearly from a bygone era.
The world needs your love letters. And mine. Let's write them.