A meditation on death

November 13, 2009

My high school theater teacher died Tuesday, and I found out on Facebook. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I scanned down my news feed. I quickly opened a new tab in Firefox and typed in my high school’s website. Sure enough, the home page confirmed the veracity of my high school acquaintance’s status. My theater teacher of two years lost her battle with cancer. For a moment, the breath was completely knocked out of me. And I did the only thing I could do–comment on my friend’s status.

I sat on my bed in complete shock and then I did the only other thing I could think of:. I called my mother and told her what happened. The conversation lasted a few moments. I didn’t have anything to say. I hung up and I cried. Hard. For a minute. And then it was over. I went back to my work. I didn’t post a memory of her on the Facebook remembrance page someone created for her. I didn’t even become a fan of it. My life stopped and then it restarted just as quickly.

I don’t know what this death means to me, if it means anything at all. For some of my former classmates, it’s a huge blow. Ms. Bennett inspired them to pursue their dreams of acting. She took their first set of headshots and helped them prepare their college audition monologues. I didn’t have that kind of relationship with her.

My time in her class showed me that theater wasn’t my passion. I remember realizing at the end of the only play I ever did in high school (“Camino Real” by Tennessee Williams) that the thrill of performing did not outweigh the stress of the weeks of rehearsal. It was a moment of loss after having spent so much of my youth on stage. I had a very bad taste in my mouth when I quit my high school’s theater program. But that’s in the past, and I dropped that hurt long before I graduated high school.

So here I am. Moved by this death and yet not moved at all. Nothing in my life has changed and yet I feel unsteady. I don’t miss her. I haven’t since I dropped theater. But her death still feels close to me even if it doesn’t hurt me.

I cried because she died and death is sad, not because she’s gone from my life. I cried because time happens. I cried because I’ve cried over deaths before. I cried because I remember the eulogies at a funeral and a snow covered graveyard and the look on a parent’s face when the burial is over and there are no more goodbyes to be said. I cried because one day that will be me.

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