Well, of course. Most of the people ever, ever to have lived are dead. Why should I expect that my mother, myself, my partner, my friends, my children should be any different? We live, we die; in doing so, we make room for the people who inherit the human condition after us. But still, every moment is a new slash in the face, a new stutter of the heart, to realize that the woman who overshadowed my childhood, my young womanhood, my motherhood, isn't the element of nature she always seemed but fragile, mortal, friable, and too soon gone.
Words are what I do. Words are the only thing I can give to someone beyond any other gifts but my love. What does a woman who has said good-bye to her body, her family, her joys, her friends, and all but the stripped-down essence of herself need? Nothing. So I give her what I can: my love, my forgiveness, my hand in hers, my effort to give her my whole attention and hold my overflowing grief for some other place. And my words. I feel as if I've failed to manage the poetry I'd hoped to offer, and instead wound up howling to the empty air my anger, and my loss.
On [a date too soon if yet unknown], Betty Hurtt died as she lived, fearlessly, with great poise and more than a little stubbornness. In her not nearly long enough life, Betty was a model, a stewardess before there were flight attendants, a secretary before there were administrative assistants, and a social worker who helped children and adolescents. She accomplished every goal she set herself, from a Master’s degree to world travel to a house on the beach, and if she made mistakes along the way it was because she wasn’t afraid to take risks. An avid traveler, Betty embarked on her last journey with her usual meticulous preparation for the unknown, after telling us all good-bye.
If the measure of a life is the vigor with which it is lived and the number of people it touches, Betty’s life was astonishingly large. She is loved beyond the reach of words by her children, grandchildren, and many, many friends. And although we know that the end of every life is death, we face her loss with incredulity and outrage. F*^# cancer.