A friend of Eden’s died in a car accident this weekend. He was 18. We’d met him, and his family, and it was absolutely shocking to read Eden’s text Saturday, imparting the unfathomable news.
Eden called me shortly after, crying her heart out. She was experiencing the initial razor’s edge of grief; that sharp, bloody pain of trying to accept that you will never see a familiar face again, or hear a voice that you can instantly call to mind. The kind that fades to a dull throb, leaving you hollow and exhausted. I know it well. I’ve lost many, but the unexpected losses are the most brutal. I lost a best friend at 13, and another dear friend at 14. Both to suicide. Both shocks to the system. I couldn’t bear hearing Eden’s sobs on the end of the line, knowing there was nothing I could say or do that would lessen her grief. Because there just isn’t. Grief bends you to its will and you submit until it’s over. Fighting makes it harder.
She spent the night at her dad’s house that night, where I’m sure her other family loved her and did their best to comfort her. And she came home the next day, sad, but alright. It was a perfect Texas day; sunny, warm but not hot, spring verdantly blooming all around. Eden went to a park with a friend to enjoy the sunshine. Allen was on a bike ride, and while we were expecting my brother Gus for dinner, he hadn’t yet arrived and so Lucy and I were alone.
Lucy loves to sit on the front steps and watch the boats skimming across the lake and the cars with windows open, bursting with children and dogs, driving down to the park on our street. So while we waited for everyone to arrive home for supper, I poured a glass of wine and we sat on the front steps in the sun.
I couldn’t help but think of the other family. One day down. Waking in a new world. Dimmer. Full of pain. It made my eyes well up and I hugged Lucy to me and didn’t let her squirm away, even though she tried.
The following morning I was out on a walk, multi-tasking between emails and texts and phone calls. Eden texted me to see if I would have lunch with her, but I was in business mode and had a list to complete, so I declined and asked if we could do it another time. Then I had a catch-up session with a girlfriend, and she asked how Eden was doing, knowing that she’d just lost a friend. While recounting the story, I changed my mind, and decided to scrap the rest of my list and take Eden to lunch. It meant I had to haul ass to the shower and just get in the car and go.
We sat outside eating sushi, Eden’s favorite meal. She was sad, and told me that her social media was just saturated with outpourings of love for her friend. Her eyes filled. I learned more details about the accident. My mother’s imagination ran amok and the ache in my stomach returned. Then, she wanted a selfie with me. Later, we got the details of the memorial. It will be at one of the most beautiful places in Austin. It will be enormous, as he had many, many friends, from his school and others. The kids will wear his favorite color. We went through my closet to look for something appropriate. Eden spent the evening with a friend, going over memories, exhausting her tears. When she came home, she fell asleep immediately.
Today, when everyone was gone and the house was quiet, I changed the sheets on Eden’s bed. I smoothed out all of the wrinkles and somehow it felt like caressing her. I looked around her room, at the colors she chose, the mementos and pictures tacked up, the homecoming mums, the shoes on the floor, even the half of a banana she’d left on her dresser in a hasty exit for her school day. And I thought of her friend’s mom, and I began to cry for her. For the empty room she has now. The mementos she sees, the bed she will caress. The baby she lost. I can’t say how much I wish to hold her heart. That I wish there was anything at all that could ease her pain. But there’s not. We met once. All I can do is pray for her. Which seems so small.
At least for Eden I can do more. I can’t make it go away, but I can have lunch with her. I can hold her. I can listen to her process her sorrow. When I lost friends at such a young age, it changed me. I know it will change Eden, too. It will be the first scar on her heart that will speak to Heaven, though it won’t be the last. And it will teach her how to submit to grief with grace, allowing the waves as they come, resting in the calms, and appreciating every sunny day with which she is blessed.