Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Charlotte's Gift to Me

I thought I knew exactly what I would write about this week.  Irene, in NYC.  I wasn't there, but my husband, Drew, was.  It would have been mostly his story, how he coped during the storm, with bits of mine thrown in --how I coped with his coping -- from our home in Arkansas.  It's a story worth telling, but my focus changed early Sunday morning when the phone rang.

It was my friend, Marian, from Connecticut.  The quiver in her voice hinted at an ominous message before the words revealed it.  "Winds from the hurricane downed a power line that started a fire in Jim's (her husband) parents' house.  Charlotte died."  Jim's father managed to escape their burning Prospect, Connecticut home; tragically, his mother did not.

Immense sadness for Charlotte's family hovers over me, its weight a mere fraction of what her family is experiencing.  A loss so sudden, its circumstances so unforeseen, leaves the mind hardly equipped to accept it as real.   

Such devastating news is usually about people we don't know, in places far away.  Up-to-the minute headlines report environmental disasters or terrorist acts, which result in death, injury, suffering.  Numbers, routinely without names, appear in bold, black letters and matter-of-factly spoken narratives on the nightly news.  "Sixteen killed in suicide bombing;"  "Hundreds left homeless after flood waters recede;" and in today's local paper, "Irene's toll jumps to 42."

Numbers, convenient to dismiss, yet helpless to impart the heartbreaking loss of a wife, mother, grandmother, friend.      

I heard an interview on NPR with journalist, Daniel Schorr, recorded several years ago, in which he mentioned a staggering number of deaths connected with the Vietnam war.  He quickly spewed out the numbers, continued his commentary, then abruptly stopped.  His exact words escape me, but to paraphrase his eloquence. . . These were people.  They deserve for us to say this slowly, with solemnity. And he repeated his previous sentence, slowing as he read the number of dead, followed by a moment of silence.

Charlotte's untimely death has slowed me, caused me to consider how I react to the faceless numbers whose fates I hear, but ignore, moving on without the slightest pause.
Her face comes into focus, reminding me of the humanity behind the headlines, the stories behind the numbers.

Because of Charlotte Levine,
I stopped today to read the article about the 42 deaths attributed to Irene.
Otherwise, I might have skipped it, not taking the time, not taking in the significance of 42 . . .
individuals with names, with life stories, with people deeply grieving their absence.
with solemnity and intentionality,
I paused from the rush of my day,
and sat in silence,
   in gratitude.






1 comment:

  1. So sorry to hear of Charlotte's passing. She looks like someone who was cheerful and kind. Thanks for the reminder to pause and enjoy each moment, reflect ad think and honor all humanity.


Web Analytics