What do you do when you know someone is going to die? I’m not talking about death when it comes at the end of a long protracted illness or a terminal diagnosis. Or the final act at the end of a “good” life, when the body and mind have ultimately given way. I’m talking about when you realize the twenty-five-year-old woman in front of you, who you met five minutes ago, has no idea she will not survive to see another sunrise.
It started almost as a little hum… a vibration in my head, felt more than heard. A connection between some deep part of my brain straight to inside my chest. In the days leading up to my college graduation I mostly ignored it. Easy enough in the midst of goodbye parties, long nights at the Terrace drinking pitchers of beer while the sun set over Lake Mendota. Graduation parties, visiting family to entertain… there was plenty to be distracted by. But the hum turned to an ache. A growing uneasiness. An angst. I tried to drown it. Alcohol, music, sleep. But graduation came, and as day turned to night, and evening settled in, I saw Liza, my friend, forged on those first few nights in the dorm freshman year, across the street from my apartment on her porch. I walked over and sat next to her and buried my head on her shoulder and just cried. Tears flowed with the pressure and force of the angst that had been percolating inside me now at a full boil. She held me as I just let go. And for a few moments at least I had relief from the discomfort that had entered my perfect world.