This is about death. This is about loss. This is about tragedy.
True tragedy gives you perspective. True suffering, real pain, profound grief—it will put things in order for you. It will rearrange your world, make things bigger and smaller as it seems fit. As it seems right.
Tragedy seen from a distance will make you thankful. It will make you hold someone a little longer, smile a little more often. It will feel so small and far away, you could never imagine it happening to you. You will talk about doing something, then do nothing. You will feel sad for someone else. For a moment. Tragedy felt from a distance will be with you briefly, and then depart—like a house guest who left your home a bit messier than it was before.
Tragedy felt right next to you, so close that the heat from the pain radiates on your skin—tragedy like that will change you. It will grab you by the face. It will force your eyes open and closed at the exact same time. Like a train wreck, a crash on the express way, you slow down, you look in the direction of the fire even though you know you shouldn’t. You look because you don’t know what else to do. You want to comfort, that’s all you know you can do, and will forget how to do that. So you watch and you feel like a voyeur, watching someone else fall apart right in front of you. You will compare it to a zoo, and you won’t be wrong. No one will correct you. No one will stop you from leaving, because one more voyeur is there to take your place.
You will not be able to sleep the same way. The creaks of your bed will not sound the same when you roll over, unable to find peace in the night. Your dreams will be muted, the volume turned all the way down. When they are vivid, they will verge on nightmares. You will try to save them. They will be men in distress, falling from buildings, picturesque as the plummet to their demise. In your dreams, their hands will be right out of grasp and you will only hear their wives cry as they hit the ground and shatter.
When you tell stories, you’ll forget to use the past tense. You’ll be so thrown off, fumbling over your words. You always had such a good grasp of language, and now—you have to relearn how to speak, how to hear, how to listen.
You will wonder how the rest of the world has failed to notice. You will leave their house and look at other cars on the road and think to yourself, “Do they know?”
Your life will always be in two firm parts—before and after. You will remember the before so vividly. There will be moments when you close your eyes and for a second—just one second—you will forget. You will hear them laugh. You will hear the clinking of glasses late at night in your kitchen, and think that drinks are being poured to celebrate—not to mourn. Then you will remember. The drinks are being poured constantly now, but the taste is so different. No one is saying L’chaim. Everyone is quietly toasting, their heads down, letting the burn of vodka chase away the tears in the back of their throats. You will see too many sad toasts.
Tragedy will change you. But it gives perspective. It will make little things—breakups, fender benders, the small surprises of life—seem like nothing. You will feel silly for being sad. You will feel sad anyway. But it will help you move on, because perspective does that. It gives you distance. You have no choice but to move forward.