Fated Time

Dear J-

My coworker sent an email last night; her mother-in-law had died and she couldn’t make it in. The particular details can be summarized in a clinical bullet point: May, goes in with a minor complaint and is diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. This, one month before her son gets married to my coworker, so she didn’t make it to the wedding. I think about my own mom, who went to the hospital around the same time for the same sort of thing — here’s a mysterious backache that won’t go away — and walked out with a clean bill of health instead, like some sort of lottery or fate. The mystery of who and why is inexplicable, a bolt of lightning on an otherwise clear blue day, the destiny we can’t escape.

I suppose it’s the fatalistic part of me that says these things. This is as faith-based as I end up: why is often more easily explained with a shrug and “I guess because that’s the way it is” than a soul-searching list of causality factors. It’s not a good look for a person who’s had actual cause analysis training, mind you. If we dig far enough back there may be some sort of family history or environmental factors which go far to addressing the mechanistic factors but not the human question of why. Why is what’s going to pry open the little fractures in your sleep, why is the real question.

When he was five, my dad says he fell into a pond at the family farm (who knew we had a family farm?) and nearly drowned, saved by his grandfather who’d heard a suspicious splash from his office. I had dreams of drowning as well, not sure if they were memories or projections: falling backwards into the pool, watching the cool blue layers overhead part to admit our neighbor, a physician by trade, plunge downward with swift, sure strokes and the light exploding above me as I rise again. I like to think of it as a memory of how I cheated death, albeit temporarily, as with all close scrapes, right? Our time will come, I suppose, but there’s no invisible hand of fate doling out thread or waving over candles, is there?



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