Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tragedy that I can hardly begin to understand

Every Wednesday I take a mile walk to lab meeting. 8:30am. Bagels. Cream Cheese. Coffee. Munchkins. Science.

The building that we meet in is at the far edge of the medical school. It is a new research facility: state of the art, nicely designed, full to the brim of cutting edge research.

I see it loom in the distance as I walk each Wednesday morning. Watching this building come into focus is a ritual that saddens me.

This building has an unfortunate history. In 2009, a young woman was murdered in this building by an animal technician that worked there. Her body was concealed in a wall. Some part of the event took place in the small room where my lab group houses animals.

Although I do not use this particular animal facility, the whole thing was... close to home. I've spent countless late night hours in the creepy, uninhabited bowels of Yale, my heart pounding as the lights automatically turn off or a rat shuffles in its cage. To imagine that something so terrible could happen at a normal hour in a normal room in a normal building: it frightened me. I think it frightened all of us.

Every Wednesday morning during my walk to lab meeting, I think, for a brief moment, about this young woman.

This morning the Yale Campus learned of another tragic death. There was a horrific accident last night. An undergraduate was working alone in the machine shop. Her hair became caught in the lathe and she was killed.

I haven't stopped thinking about it all day. Now that Jack is here, there is something new for me to consider, something more than just the tragedy of this woman losing her life: my god, her parents, oh my god, her parents. It is a trauma for her family that I can only begin to imagine. I am so disturbed.

If I were to lose Jack, I do not know what I would do. I suppose I would continue living for Greg, but not for myself. I imagine in time the shock would subside, but I also imagine that the pain would never go away, and how is it that a person can live with so much pain? How these parents must have felt, to receive a call in the middle of the night, to know that their daughter, a graduating senior they thought they left safe to pursue her education -- to learn that she is gone before her life truly started, her life destroyed by such a horrific and preventable accident. To learn that they could never hear her or see her or touch her again. To learn that they would not know what she would have been.

What a terrible thing. What a tragic, terrible thing.

These tragedies were sad to me, before. Now they take on new meaning. I realize, now, why the death of a young family member is so atrocious: it is not just the loss of life, it is the loss of *living* for those who remain. And yet these two sad stories are only two. I am naive at best when I try to comprehend the tragedy available for pondering. The world presents us with a limitless source of loss.

Something about being a parent makes me hopeful, for there is love and happiness to be found in the smallest of ways. Something also makes me fearful, for there is the potential for devastation greater than I can even begin to imagine. This potential devastation is something that I compartmentalize every day, that I prevent myself from thinking about. No, Jack will not fall on the tile and hurt his head. That car will not run the red and sideswipe us. He will still be breathing when I get up to nurse him. He will. I can will away this potential harm.

Every minute of Jack's life, I have considered the worst for the shortest of seconds. Some subconscious filter sorts through my minute by minute anxiety: certain thoughts are permitted through, and the rest are locked away in the corner of my mind marked "neurotic mother". But events like this break the lock, and the flood of emotion, of fear, of empathy for what I can only begin to imagine another family is going through -- this flood of emotion reminds me of how incredibly lucky we are to have each other.

My sincerest condolences, to the void, for unbearable and unnecessary loss.

No comments:

Post a Comment