Yesterday, after Russian class, I realized I hadn’t talked to my sister in about two weeks, which is something of a record for us — ever since she got a new, and very part-time, job. So I called her and asked if she were available for lunch. She called back, said yes, we met at a local eatery, and talked for over 2 hours. My sister is 15 years younger than I am, so it’s like two generations in the same family: my experiences and memories are so vastly different from her experiences and memories. Between us, we’re a virtual encyclopedia of our family. (The three guys who arrived between my birth and hers don’t seem to remember anything family-related. Must be a chick thing.)
I got home, got on my e-mail, just to see what had occurred in the world between my 7:00 a.m. departure and 3:00 p.m. — and found a note from the Summer School of Liturgical Music: the wife of one of the graduates had been killed in a traffic accident, leaving behind two children. The kick in the head is, these people are all from Russia. Now this girl’s family will never see her again, and presumably, she will have to be buried in foreign soil.
They live in the Boston area, a city with which I am fairly well acquainted; so I really should attend the funeral, if I can get down there. However, there’s the rub: No one in his right mind drives in Boston. This is probably true for most big cities; for example, I’ve never driven in Manhattan, despite being a native New Yorker, and I never drove in Boston for all the five years we lived in close proximity to that city. Boston has the added “charm” of having streets that are so unpredictable, you can make four right turns and have absolutely no clue where you are — all you know is, you are not where you started.
So driving to Boston is out of the question. No problem. There’s train service between here and Boston, bus service as well. OK, now: How to get from either North Station (train service) or South Station (bus service) out to Roslindale, where the funeral will take place?
Do you think there’s anything so simple as a map of the city’s transportation system that actually acknowledges the existence of Roslindale?
That about sums up my whole experience with Boston: A city that should be a whole lot more convenient than it is, full of insane drivers (there’s a reason that ads for auto insurance always add, “Not applicable in Massachusetts or New Jersey”), and impossible — absolutely impossible — to get from here to there using anything that makes any sense. Why is that?
Why are people in Boston so hot and bothered about where they’re going that they drive like certified lunatics? When we moved there, 25 years ago, my husband was told that “red lights are strictly advisory,” and the person who told him that — a native Bostonian — wasn’t joking. It’s the only place I know of where you can have a green light and a pedestrian Walk light, and still have to watch, in all directions at once, every step you take.
Why was somebody in such a big honking rush that he took a risk that cost a young mother her life?
Why do people find it necessary — and this includes most of our ancestors — to travel halfway around the globe in order to find a better life?
And the obvious question, that nobody has any business asking, but I know it’s in all our minds: Why was it necessary to deprive a young wife and mother of her life?
Having gone through a similar experience, of having grown up without my natural father who died in a traffic accident, I can state with absolute certainty that this event will shape the entire lives of those two children, quite possibly for the better. They will never again take anything for granted that most people do. They will never again become so attached to anyone that the thought of losing them won’t be uppermost in their minds. When they marry, they will cherish every day of life with their spouse, even when said spouse drives them up the wall. And sadly, they will also probably put up some kind of a wall between them and their father — after all, the same thing could happen to him. Once it happens, anything at all is possible, right? Can’t afford to get too attached.
As for her husband: As you get older, you start to consider what life without your spouse might be like. Or what life might be like for your spouse without you. To me, it’s just a sensible precaution to make sure that Jim could get through daily life without me. But when you are young, in your 30s and 40s, getting things in order for your spouse to carry on without you is just not on the radar scope. Only for him, it’s not only on the radar scope, it’s scored a direct hit. He’s just experienced his own personal 9/11: catastrophic, unimaginable, destruction beyond destruction of something that was supposed to last a lifetime. And the need to carry on as though it were only a blip, a temporary disruption in the continuum of his life. He still has to go to work every day. He still has to put bread on the table for his kids. And only a few people care that he now also has to do everything for them that his wife did.
So, the final Why: Why do people imagine for one nanosecond that they can possibly get through anything like this without the presence of God? For Vladimir, that won’t happen. He’s a committed Christian, someone who became a Christian despite having grown up in an atmosphere that daily denied the existence of God. This is someone who will most certainly ask all they Whys I did, and many more; but he won’t have to ask the final Why.
Pray for these people. Pray for Vladimir, Anna, and Victor. Pray for the soul of Galina. And pray for those with whom you share your life, ’cause you really never do know when the last kiss you share will be the Last Kiss in this life.
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