Last night I lay in bed for an hour, tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep. I was having waking nightmares, and I kept worrying about things that you shouldn’t really worry about when you’re safe at home in your own bed. I was worrying about things like getting paralyzed and never being able to run again, or going blind and never seeing the beauty in the world again, or jinxing myself by worrying too much and not waking up in the morning. I lay there for an hour trying to figure out what was wrong with me, why I couldn’t stop thinking about these things, afraid I was finally having some kind of psychotic break from thinking too much. So naturally, I thought more about it. I couldn’t figure out what was causing it, until I remembered.
Earlier in the day a younger girl had messaged me asking if I knew what happened to Connor Day. “No,” I said. I didn’t know him personally, so I hadn’t heard, but I hoped nothing bad. My hoping, however, was much too late. As soon as I logged on to Facebook I saw the photo collages of his smiling face, the long statuses about what a good guy he was, and the R.I.P. signs. It was bad.
There’s not a set emotion that you feel when you see something like that, and there’s not really much you can say, except that it’s sad. The girl asked me if I knew him at all, and expressed her “concerns” (for lack of a better word). I told her that yes, it is really sad, but everybody dies. That doesn’t make it any less sad or any more okay, but Connor Day is already known more now than he ever was when he was alive. He is known now by me, by her, by the friends that she tells and the friends that they tell, and by whoever is reading this blog. She then said that it was sad because last year it was Kali Gorzell, who drowned in the lake, and this year it’s him. And yes, it’s sad. It’s always sad. But next year it will be someone else, and a few months later someone else, and a few days later another person, and a few minutes later another, and the next second another. And someday it will be me, and someday it will be her, and someday it will be you. And it will be sad, and it will be okay. There just isn’t really anything that we can ever say. I told her to remember that nobody’s death is ever the end for anybody. She thanked me for my wisdom, told me she would see me around, went back to her business, and I went back to mine.
But lying in bed last night, I remembered. And all wisdom aside, I finally realized why I kept worrying. Death doesn’t scare me. Dying doesn’t scare me. That is the truth, but if one thing does scare me, it’s dying young – dying before you’ve gotten to live your dreams. Connor Day should have graduated next year. He should have gone to college. He should have had great experiences. He should have had a life.
Right after I remembered, I got a message from a friend. He had known Connor, and he had just gotten back from the memorial service. He wanted to talk, but he didn’t know what to say, and I didn’t know what to say. We just said it was sad, and I said I’m sorry that I never got to know him.
He told me, “At least you don’t have to miss never getting to talk to him again.”
And I started crying. It was a soft, calm crying, the kind of crying that you do when you’re really sorry that someone you know is in pain because someone they know is dead, and because their death makes others so much more sad than you, and you’re sad enough as it is. It’s the kind of crying that you do because dying young scares the shit out of you, because you don’t want to hit a pebble, hydroplane, fly into a tree, and die on impact while your car goes up in flames. It’s the kind of crying that you do because you are so sorry, and so sad, and so scared, and you just don’t know what to say.
So, since there was nothing to say, I wiped my silent tears away and was finally able to go to sleep, glad that I would wake up in the morning. And this morning I remembered that nobody’s death is ever the end for anybody, because here I am, thinking and writing about Connor Day, and there you are, reading about Connor Day, and on Monday hundreds more people will be thinking about him at his service, and they will never really forget him entirely. They will put a tombstone up with his name on it, and a hundred years from now someone like me will be wandering around the graveyard and spot it, and they will wonder who he was, what he was like, and why he died so young. And thousands of years from now that tombstone will turn into dust, dust that remembers his name, and it will blow across the earth, a whisper of Connor Day. And in that dust, which someday all of us will be, a memory of him will always linger on, even when the days of forever are over and gone.