A woman in her late 60s, an old friend of my boss', has battled cancer since the late-1990s. She's been struggling through it again, and after some recent treatments her immune system was terribly compromised; she was ordered to stay away from sick people. Yet, when she returned home, her husband of 40 years had taken ill. She was disappointed but thought little of it; she was so exhausted and overwhelmed again by the disease. They tried to comfort each other with a door between them. They shared a little news, but not much was to be said. He was dead before three days passed. They had not said goodbye. A blood infection, they said. I've read some of her poems. They about ripped my guts out.
A young couple, just starting out, bought some land in the small town where I live. She: a young sculptor with a following. He: an architect with vision. They discussed their house designs with the off-season fishermen and retired professors at the cafe in town. These old men took a shine to the young couple, seeing there all the promise of an unwritten future. The couple took a drive to Maine to acquire a new boat. I do not know the details of their trip. He returned with the boat. It was snowing that day, the day she drove back, and she rear-ended a truck on the highway and died as he was showing off the boat to their friends.
Maybe, for me, once something crosses the line from "really horrible thing that happened" to "tragedy" the concept of degrees, greater or lesser, becomes moot. Tragic is tragic, there is one note to it. Both of these events are tragic to me but neither is less than the other. Or, rather, they are constantly trading places in my head. Sometimes it is the first story with the poetry and loss, the richness of a whole complicated life that saddens me. Other times it is the second story where I become lost, the last rays of sunshine fading before a long night of battling the elements in a barely seaworthy boat, out of sight of land.
More than anything I am reminded that my life is lovely and random and that, for now, fortune and nature are pursuing entertainment elsewhere.