Jul 2018 29

After not posting for awhile, this will be kind of a bummer post. But death is on my mind.

Two women I know died recently. Their stories are very different from each other, but both have me thinking about the struggles people go through in life. How are some people able to get through theirs, and others just can not? Is it luck? Is it a support system? Their lives, and deaths, will leave their impression on me for a long time. Both bright lights that I’ll miss.

My next door neighbour, Bronia, was 87. Reading her obituary, her age came as a bit of a surprise. It was always a topic on our street – ‘Just how old do you think Bronia is?’ was frequently discussed and guesses ranged from early 70s to her 90s. Always tending her front or back gardens, which were lovely and made me feel like a terrible neighbour for not following her street beautification example, Bronia didn’t speak much English but was always quick with a bright smile, or a pat for our dogs – which she encouraged to lick her face and she’d giggle with joy. We’d see her zipping up and down Roncesvalles, with her bundle buggy in tow talking to friends. She seemed to slow a bit lately, but it didn’t deter her from being out in her garden all the time.

At her visitation at the funeral home, we got to see photos of her as a young girl in another country. And then as a wife, and as a caring mother. And then into being a grandmother. Same smile. Same bright aura. A life well lived. And long lived.

And then there’s Renée.

Just 23 years old. Her whole life ahead of her. Many years ago, we first met her at a restaurant up the street that we frequent a lot where she was a server. Just like Bronia, always quick with a bright smile and eager to share a laugh. When she left the restaurant recently, we wondered what the circumstances were but people come and go in your life and as you get older, you tend to accept it. We ran into her recently on Roncesvalles and now that I think back, there was a sadness in her eyes, despite the smiles and quick superficial catch-up. She had plans for the future though, and I looked forward to running into her again and hearing how they were coming together.

But last week, we got word that she died suddenly. Her heart gave out from complications related to an eating disorder. It turns out she had been battling this and depression for quite a long time. And those of us who were just ‘customers’ are left wondering – What did we miss? Should we have spotted this? How could we have helped? Those are selfish things I suppose and puts far too much importance on ourselves. It’s her parents and those closest to her that I feel for now.

Bronia was blessed with a long life and leaves behind kids, grandkids, and neighbours who will all miss her presence. She left a large wake behind her. And Renée, well, it just feels like she was cheated. And we’re all cheated too for not seeing a young person so full of potential, realize it, and find her place in the world and her dreams fulfilled.

A reminder – Some people hide their internal struggles well.

I’m mad at life for Renée. And yet happy at life for Bronia’s story.

Death is never fair. Is our fate sometimes as random as a roll of the dice? Or is their more at work here?