One of the greatest authors of the 20th century is Kurt Vonnegut. That's perhaps not earth shattering information to the more literary among the world, but whatever. It's true. Vonnegut speaks to me because he so seamlessly merges cynicism and frustration with an underlying humor and almost-but-not-quite hope. It's a position I find myself in, and I appreciate someone who can articulate what I'm not clever enough to do myself.
In Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut writes a semi-fictional account of his time as German POW in WWII. He was in Dresden when the Allies bombed the city into oblivion, killing thousands of innocent people. Vonnegut was profoundly impacted by this, and it shows not in hostility but in wry observation toward both his allies and his enemies for creating such a situation.
The most famous line from the book is repeated throughout after Vonnegut describes particularly absurd, inhumane, and horrifying situations in the plot or about humanity more generally: "And so it goes."
"And so it goes." This simple sentence could follow the paragraphs that are Summer 2011. If I were writing my biography, I would write about the last two years, and the last few months most particularly, with plenty of "And so it goes." My best friend, Amy, who has always been the most loyal, compassionate and encouraging person outside my parents, lost her battle to cancer on July 5.
She fought for two years. She got clean remission reports, only to find more ravaging cancer a few months later. She would be encouraged, then collapse into despair. She would find hope only to have it pulled from under her feet. She was Optimism to my Pessimism, but in our last conversation she told me I had been right all along and my heart shattered. She had a wonderful husband--one of the best--and three delightful and sweet children. Everything to live for.
And so it goes.
I know for certain that Amy wants me to live the life she saw for me. I know she wants me to be happy, to feel joy, to embrace life. I want that, too. But I want that with her around. I want to tell her about all that. I want to be an old lady with her so we can laugh about all the dumb stuff we thought about life in our 30s. I don't want to see her only in dreams and in clouds, and I don't want to only hear her voice in emails and the wind and in the sounds of cicadas that remind me of her farm.
And so it goes.
I know that life is always a gamble. I know that none of us have control over our time of death. I know cancer has struck many other wonderful people who also lost their battles. I know some of them. I know that it's better to live 34 powerful and engaged years than 100 miserable or careless ones. I know that I should be grateful I had the chance to grow up with her, to become an adult with her. But that's not enough.
And so it goes.
And so I go. Without my sister friend. Without my email inbox filled with loving shoves and pointed observations and uncomfortable insights whose validities are undeniable. I go on, with the wind, the cicadas, the clouds, and the dreams. I grow older with an empty chair, and an empty spot in my heart. With a silence that will never again be filled with her voice.
It shouldn't go like this.