I used to pass by it every morning on my way to work. A hammock, out at the end of the point. It was always up, summer, winter, spring and fall. A really lovely place to sit and watch a sunset, snuggle up. I never climbed into it myself (it's not mine, after all!) but I always appreciated the brilliance of the location and the view.
It's gone now.
Very late last night, the whole end of the Island was swarming with every kind of emergency vehicle, trying to extricate the two college students that had been laying in the hammock when the dead tree the hammock was connected to toppled over on top of them. The girl, Mallori Kastner, was pronounced dead at the scene. The guy, Jeremy Mohr, is apparently paralyzed from the neck down.
The hammock is gone. There's a growing pile of flowers there. The body of the tree is still there, half-rolled off into the water. And there are people, always people. I came across a group that I'm fairly certain included the girl's parents and siblings this afternoon, the mother talking about her daughter's hopes and dreams. I stayed out of the way.
What was I supposed to do?
It's so strange to be in the midst of grief. I came around the point yet again this evening, to find a silver minivan blocking the road, illuminating the wreath and flowers left there in the headlights. They quickly reversed and drove on, and I cursed myself for driving them off. I'd have gladly backed up and taken the other road, to let them sit and look. Rolling up next to them at the stoplight, I zipped down my window and apologized for running them off. They waved it off, but I could see in their eyes that they had other things on their minds. Sorry, silver-minivan-people-from-Illinois. I should let you grieve. My usual route wasn't that important.
What do you do when grief is so close by, but has nothing to do with you? My only connection is that I drive by that hammock every day, that I live just down the block, that I think I saw them snuggling under that tree over there, a few weeks ago, that I used to go to the same college... it's not a connection, really; who am I to intrude on their grief?
So why does it feel wrong to step back and do nothing?