You might remember that Maria, my sweet seventeen-year-old cousin, died unexpectedly and inexplicably this past June. After six long months, the autopsy report came back yesterday. Cause of death? "Indeterminable." Manner of death? "Indeterminable." While the doctors recommended that her living relatives get tested for a particular kind of hard-to-detect heart disease, that appears to be just speculation. The point is, they have no idea why this healthy girl died one afternoon. Her family is left with the reasoning that, as they put it when sharing the news, "God wanted her ... No earthly explanation was to be found."
I'm struck that this "indeterminable" news came on the same day as the awful shooting in a Connecticut elementary school, which left 28 dead, including twenty children. That's a different kind of inexplicable death that leaves the rest of us feeling pensive, and angry, and sorrowful, and searching, and profoundly empathetic.
While each story has its own scope, and there are no equivalencies, it felt like there was a curious sort of rhyme yesterday, to reconcile ourselves with the permanent uncertainty of Maria's passing at the same moment that so many others met the unique questions that came out of the violence targeting children at school. Like a chorus, each of us with our own reasons: connected and apart, mouths open, a wail, a song. The warp and weft of it all.
Before, I offered a poem for Maria Rose and said there might be more. Here is the more.
Making a Fist
By Naomi Shihab Nye
By Emily Dickinson
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –