37 Days and Meta’s Story

Posted on Tuesday 28 November 2006

One of my favorite blogs to read is 37 Days, by Patti Digh. A recent post of her talks about the movie “March of the Penguins”, and talks about a young woman named Meta.

The story really hit home for me, since Meta was about the same age as my identical twin and, like him, was killed in a car accident. One of the things Patti mentions in her post is how Ren, another of her readers, wrote,

“I agree with you that the grieving process is a life-long thing. It’s about coming to terms with the new relationship you’ve got with the person. Because death doesn’t end the relationship, it ends a life (there’s an old quote about that…who is it?) and it’s this constant coming to terms with the fact that they aren’t physically there.”

This is also my belief. Two of the most important people in my life are gone, but I still have a relationship with them—one that is often not understood by others—especially those who don’t believe as Ren and I do. I am constantly reminded—especially in the case of my identical twin brother, David—that both he and Gee are no longer physically here.

When my identical twin was killed over 19 years ago by a drunk driver, it didn’t change the fact that I was a twin still, even though I thought it did at the time. Being a twin is still at the core of my identity. As my friend, the late Dr. Raymond Brandt, founder of Twinless Twins Support Group International would say, “If you were born a twin, you will die a twin.” It took me almost seven years to realize that.

In some ways, Gee’s death was both harder and easier to deal with. It was easier to deal with in that we, Gee and I, both had time to prepare for it—that we knew it was going to happen—sooner rather than later. It was harder to deal with for many reasons. The first was that I had picked Gee myself. She was the person I had chosen to marry and share my life with. The second reason it was so difficult, and in many ways still is, was due to the very short time we had together—just 23 months and one day.

In many ways, the brevity of our time together has left me confused. It seems that I can’t really remember what it was like before I had Gee in my life, and my mind keeps thinking that there should be more memories of us together than there are. It always felt as if I had known her all of my life, and yet those feelings jar when I realize how little time we actually had together.

Sharing Gee’s life was a precious gift for me. I am still amazed that of all the people she could have chosen to marry, she picked me—it boggles my mind at times.

Sometimes, it seems to me, that the lives that are cut short are often the ones who best knew how to live it to the fullest.

Patti closes her post with a 37 Days challenge, which I will quote in its entirety here.

In this world, we often have things fill in for other things, often because the other things are too big, like an eclipse that is too bright to watch directly—we need a deflection, a parallelism, of sorts, to make them manageable: a rock for a burden, a sun for a yearning, the ocean for wishes, a dove for a spirit.

When I look at this photo from the celebration of Meta’s life, that dove caught perfectly in flight, I am most struck by the joy on the uplifted faces as that dove becomes Meta: who among us wouldn’t choose flight?

Even the “get out of jail free” man from the Monopoly game has wings, after all. That dove is imbued with much meaning, as are all the things of our days. Sometimes, the sun shines just right on them and we can acknowledge and own and see that meaning, sometimes not.

Death ends a life, not a relationship. What if each of us holds imaginal cells, something different from the current form of us, just as the butterfly waiting to emerge and fly?

I told my friend David about this extraordinary event, this holding up, this taking care of. He wrote back: “This is how a community is supposed to work. Imagine if we held each other with the same grace in life as they have shown Meta in death.”

We are singularly unprepared for the death of someone so young—no matter their age. It calls into question meaning and fairness and truth. What we can only hope to do, I think, is move toward them with a heart so open to love that we can embrace the whole of them, body and spirit, and help that spirit to fly away from us so it can envelope us, so we can continue that relationship in a different, deeper, more intangible and yet more powerful way.

In each day that her family lives, I imagine that Meta will be a pentimento in those hours and weeks and months and years, just as my father is in mine, turning and turning in their mouths and hearts and limbs like a dorodango is turned, the silt of that dust of our ongoing days creating a precious, fine shine in which we can see ourselves, and them.

Forever hold your penguin dear. They need not freeze on cold, hard ice as long as you are holding them, if not in your arms, then in your heart, your mind, your own soul. Hold each other with the same grace in life as these beautiful people have shown Meta in death.

My challenge to you is this…

  • Cherish the penguins in your lifeboth living and dead.
  • Celebrate the time you spend with them.
  • Spend it wellas Gee and I did when we knew it was going to be far less than we wanted it to be.
  • Listen to themhear what they are trying to tell you—look for the real meaning behind the words.
  • Be present for them and really be there with themas if you only had 37 days left to spend with them.

While you won’t always succceed in doing all of this…you can’t play the game if you don’t get on the field.

Life is far too short to spend on hate, anger, jealousy or the other things that don’t make life worth living.

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