At least, not in the sense of a sort of me-shaped mist that can step away from my body and continue thinking and functioning, continue being smart or not-so-smart, continue liking such-and-such color, continue being nice or catty or outgoing or shy. The Facebook-profile self, the music-I-like and jobs-I’ve-had and my-favorite-passtime self: that’s wonderful, that’s fine, but I don’t think it’s eternal.
My adopted aunt, my friend Monica, died last weekend. She wasn’t even fifty.
I could list adjectives, I could tell you that she was creative, and courageous, and joyful, and generous. That—you know how when you know someone really well, you tend to associate them with a color? Or is that just me?—that when I think of her, I can’t narrow it down to any one color, she was a rainbow.
But what was truly amazing about her was that she was able to see something eternal, and valuable, in everybody. Super-smart or severely retarded, nice or mean—she saw beyond all that. That’s not say that she loved everything that everybody ever did all the time. Certainly she had to tell me to snap out of it on a couple of occasions; certainly she complained about bad behavior. But she could look at the scrawniest, ugliest, puke-colored, flea-ridden alley cat and see life, and light, and value.
This week, thinking about her, about how terribly stupid and unfair it is that she should be gone already, I’ve found myself looking around and thinking, “YOU, look at YOU, asshole. What’s so great about you that you should still be here, when she’s gone? And you, too, you’ll never amount to anything, why couldn’t YOU have gone instead?”
But Monica wasn’t about that. I make myself stop.
She saw something of value in every life. Something. Not a soul, not in the sense of a personality. But some spark, some seed, that each of us—however lost, however sad, however much of a damn failure—brings to the table.
Maybe it’s not eternal-eternal. Maybe nothing is. But it matters.
She saw it, so I know it’s there.