Pictured: My husband Nate skating with our 3-year-old son Owen
One of the most beautiful things I ever read was the eulogy given by Steve Jobs’ sister Mona Simpson at his funeral. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, the text is published on The New York Times and I highly recommend reading it. There was one thing in particular that Mona said that has always stayed with me.
“We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.”
In the context of Mona’s eulogy, she was talking about how, even though they knew they would lose Steve to cancer, his death was still unexpected. That is a powerful sentiment and she phrased it perfectly. No matter the age or circumstance, death always comes in the middle of a story, in fact many stories.
Just one week ago today a 19-year-old young man I knew took his own life here in Carlsbad. I didn’t know him really well, but I knew him well enough to know what a kind, friendly, and great kid he was. He comes from a large family that is now grieving a loss that I cannot begin to comprehend.
The day after Klay died, a few friends and I delivered a bunch of supplies to the family – drinks, snacks, breakfast and lunch foods, paper plates, etc. We texted beforehand and told them they could just open the garage and pretend we weren’t even there. Of course we did see some of the family members and talked a bit with Klay’s amazing mother. I won’t go into details, but spending those few moments with that family so soon after their loss has changed me. I can’t quite put into words what that change is, but it is real and profound.
Klay suffered from depression and his depression won the battle. Almost exactly five years ago our dear friends’ nephew Brian also took his own life, also at 19 years old. Brian suffered from severe schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and lost a similar battle to Klay’s.
As I sat through Klay’s funeral yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of Brian’s funeral five years ago and the heartbreaking similarities between the two. I couldn’t help but think of loved ones in my life suffering from similar struggles. I couldn’t help but feel heartbroken for these two wonderful young men that have touched my life. And I couldn’t help but feel incredible sadness for their families and loved ones.
I also walked away from yesterday’s funeral knowing that Klay was loved unconditionally by many, many people, that Klay left behind beautiful memories, from making music to diving to skateboarding to simply being who he was day to day. Klay’s father’s words painted a picture of a life with his son that was familiar to me because it is so similar to the life I see my husband experiencing with my son.
As happens every time I witness or experience a loss, I thought of Mona’s words. Death always comes in the middle of the story. Sometimes the stories are shorter than we had hoped, but the good, even glorious, news is that there was a story. A beautiful if sometimes painful story. The trick is to appreciate the stories we are given, the stories that we get to be a part of, even when we are aching so desperately for more.
These experiences always give me perspective, but this week in particular has been especially poignant. And, while I’ve always lived a life that tries to savor each day, I am now really trying to focus on the stories of which I am a part, appreciating my life’s stories even though I know they will not last as long as I want, and loving them even more for that fact.