I Remember May
Smart And Spicy
June 1, 2017
I'm standing in the sun eating "Cabo Chips" ("Made with REAL ingredients" "Ground and uniquely crafted" "Cut & cooked in small batches.") when a man I don't know well walks up to me. "I lost my girl," he says. I rack my brain. I know him; we've talked. I know his wife and son. His wife May, and I had several conversations; we went to a market together once. Did they have a daughter? He said it again. "I lost my girl." I tried to think. "Are you talking about May?" I asked. "Yes, my girl's gone." What? He looked thinner. Was he in his 30's? 40's? May had blonde hair, in dreads. A private chef, she told me she cooked for celebrities. We'd discussed movies, and cooking. I stared at him, afraid to ask. "Are you saying May - has passed away?" "Yes, she's gone." I had a plate of food in my hand; we were at a party. I saw myself putting down the plate, feeling my stomach clutch. I couldn't think of eating. "How - how?" "We were at home. She had to use the bathroom; we were going to watch television when she came out. She sat down on the toilet and died." "Of what?" "She had a brain aneurism." "Did you have any warning?"
"No." I felt punched in the gut. He said their son, 11, now lives with an aunt. What surprised me was how sorry I felt, though I'd hardly known May. Now her husband, who used to live with a wife and their son, was living alone; I felt so bad for him. I thought of seeing May with their son; their relationship was sweet. She was a good mother. I'm in the sun, surrounded by happy people, contemplating death. I've been feeling really funny ever since. How could I be so affected by the death of someone I didn't know well? I kept thinking how precious life is, of how we could really care for someone, even a person tangential to our lives. I felt puzzled that she was gone; it was hard to understand these powerful emotions. Sometimes you're not that friendly with someone; maybe you just met them and never pursued it, or maybe they're just someone you see from time to time. But something about that person can live on in your head and at times, you remember them. I'd asked May about using gas grills; she suggested I use an oil spray on the grill so food wouldn't stick. I knew that, but I'd forgotten, and food I cooked was sticking. Each time I've sprayed a grill or pan since, I've thought of May. She introduced me to an international market I hadn't known about; we went shopping there once. I felt surprised to have memories with her, since May and I were not what you'd call friends. We weren't unfriendly; we just rarely saw each other. Life is so precious. And short. It made me think of things I really want to do that I'm not doing. It made me think of people I value, and others I don't see often enough, whom I care about. RIP May. * * * I know someone who recently lost a lifelong friend; they'd been close since they were four. My friend felt ripped apart; now he's agonizing about whether he's able to give a eulogy at the funeral, not able to share his deeply personal memories with strangers there. My friend C. recently went to the funeral of the leader of her large volunteer group. Grieving, my friend worried about who'd work as hard for the group now. Would anyone step up? What would happen to the group?
Death: irrevocable, irreversible. No one knows what really happens. Are people we cared for watching us? Is it only a Hollywood thing that they know when we remember them? If you're lucky enough to live long enough, is it that everyone you cared for and loved dies? Imponderables. Never-to-be-answered-ables. Live life. If you feel like being mean to someone, maybe consider how short life is. Is it worth it? Would it make you happier? Tend your own garden; it is what it is; reach for the stars. How many of these sayings are there? If you get to sit out in a morsel of sunshine, or even just to briefly turn your face to the sun - then you're lucky. Savor. Treasure. Cherish it. C. told me she feels sad every Memorial Day weekend, reminding me that Memorial Day is never gone. "Every day of our lives we're reminded of a loved one, or someone we read about." My British friend M. created the first online garden of remembrance, with a page for every British serviceperson killed in the Falklands War. This year, it's the 35th Anniversary of the 1982 war; 35 years later, people still remember those who died fighting. My friend showed Queen Elizabeth the virtual memorial when she came to the annual memorial service. "People can remember at any time," he says. I don't want you to feel sad; please, just remember how precious life is. RIP May. ______________________________________________ Carole Bell is a writer interested in everything. You can write to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org