Abrupt Death

I learned today that an acquaintance died Saturday in a caving accident. Nothing in the papers beyond a blurb from a Huntsville paper: “Jackson County’s caves take another life when a Georgia woman grabs the wrong rope during a weekend spelunker trip. Authorities say the death shows that only one mistake can mean death in the dangerous sport.” It doesn’t even give her name. No, they’re too busy chasing the minutiae of the far more important story—the death of Princess Di and her companions Saturday night.

I suppose they wouldn’t have had a lot to say even without Princess Di’s death as a distraction. Karen was a smart, sweet, funny person. She and her husband Steve were incredibly hospitable, opening their home to Mensa in Georgia for many parties. Karen was, in fact, the current president of the local group. She has two children in college. She will be sorely missed by many people. But none of that is newsworthy, is it?

I’ve been lucky, and most of the people I’ve known who’ve died were old or very ill. It wasn’t a surprise, and in several cases was almost a relief, as it meant the end of much suffering. But the loss of Karen is getting to me more than can be explained by mere acquaintance. I think it’s because it is difficult for me to come to terms with her being here one day, alive, vibrant, in the prime of her life—and suddenly being gone. Just gone. No time to prepare for news of her death. No grieving before the fact—just gone.

Originally written September 1, 1997

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