Tater, my friend Gilbert and I were out at Joe's, eating at the bar, deciding to have that second drink and settle into a fun Saturday night, when Tater got a call on her cell. Familiar number but an odd time to hear from this friend, so she stepped outside to call him back and see what was up. Moments later, when I looked through the front window to check on her, I instantly saw that something was terribly wrong. I hurried outside to join my wife. She blurted it out as she cried in my arms: Lily was dead - the teenaged daughter of our friends Debbie and Greg had been abducted and murdered.
There is nothing worse we can imagine, no pain more terrible for a parent to bear than this kind of tragedy. Seventeen years old and gone. The light of their lives - lives now forever altered. Whatever tears we shed and shock we suffered could only be one-millionth of the horror Deb and Greg are going through. But you do feel it - this sense of an infinite wrong having been done to all of us. These things aren't supposed to happen. And when they do, the very fabric of our lives seems to have been defiled. The foundations of everything shift.
A friend of Lily's posted on her Facebook status update: I hate this world. And what can you say in response?
There's no silver lining in this, no spin to put on it. And certainly no blame - Lily was a mature young woman who'd earned her independence, and the awful luck that befell her was just that: she was in town running a routine errand, and there is nothing anyone could ever write in any manual of parenting that would forestall such happenstance; as Tater put it, the chances were about equal to those of a meteor colliding with the earth.
This morning I went to the newstand to get the Sunday paper. "How's it going?" I asked the woman behind the counter. "Good!" she said, "I'm alive." I looked at her and nodded dumbly. Right. At least this was something she knew and appreciated. Which is the only takeaway I can think of: a notion that if there's anyone you want to know better, anyone you want to let know how much you care about them, do it now. Right now. We're here for an instant, and so much gets in the way.
Tater's been haunted by the last encounter she had with this magnificent girl, someone who embodied that old cliché: she lit up a room. She was talking to Lily about how grown up she was, how she'd become as easy to talk to as any adult. And Lily had said something witty and true about the things people talk about. What's driving Tater crazy is that she can't remember exactly what it was that Lily said. "Why didn't I pay more attention?" she asks me. "I thought she was someone who'd be there, someone I could talk to later!"
But we never know, do we, and we get as distracted as anybody does, in the day-to-day. Short of becoming Zen monks or ingesting psychedelics on a daily basis, can any of us really learn how to be here now? Maybe all you can do is try to pay a little more attention, to actually believe that this moment - pfft, gone - is the only one we've got.
Here's what Lily's parents said in the statement they released to the press: “Lily was looking forward to going to college, to being a writer, to
what was ahead. She had a really
bright future and it was cut short. If there is anything that people
can take away from this horrible tragedy, it’s that life is fragile and
that they should live every minute of it fully.”