Saturday, April 3, 2010

Taking our chances

Judy, a beloved college cohort, emailed me today. She wanted to let me know that Alisa, one of our newspaper-staff friends from our Baylor days, had died.

Alisa was an editor at the Shreveport Times, and an ardent animal rescuer. She'd undergone routine back surgery, and all had gone as planned. But then she developed a blood clot in her lungs, and she died. Just like that.

I have reread Judy's email probably seven times since then. Eight, counting just now.

True, I hadn't seen Alisa in decades. Periodically she'd send me a note about something I'd written, and for a few days afterward, we'd share back-and-forth newspaper chitchat and catch up on people we both knew. I can't remember the last time we corresponded, which in some way I think contributes to my feeling beyond sad, beyond shocked.

As I write this, I'm sitting on my front porch. The sky is the color of vinegar-smelling dye, into which dozens and dozens of hard-boiled eggs are now being dipped. They'll be hidden tonight, and discovered under couch cushions and upside-down flower pots on Easter morning.

Even at dusk, I can still see the marigolds and periwinkles I planted today, having grown impatient with seeds that just take too long for my spring-hungry mind. The world is Oz, an outpouring of color I'm especially aware because of this part of Judy's note:

"Alisa loved spring, and her funeral was on a perfect spring day.  She is buried up in Texarkana, under a tree, next to her beloved dad."

Just as I finished reading Judy's note for the first time, my best friend called. After I read it to her, I said what we all know, but which we take so for granted.

"Oh, Sister. Life is just so precious."

At work last week, we were talking about a first grader who had choked to death at her school. That tragedy led to a conversation about life's unpredictability, and how sometimes stuff just happens for which there are no answers. One friend told about a jogger she'd read about who was hit and killed by (this is true) a plane.

So does news like that make us stop running or driving or having much-needed surgeries or falling in love because we MIGHT get hurt? It could...but it doesn't. After all, we humans are a strong and plucky lot. Sure, life is inherently a risk. But we take our chances; what choice do we have?

Click here to read what I wrote about this -- almost four years ago to the day -- after a trip to a writers' conference in Hartford, Conn.

And rest in peace, sweet Alisa.

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