Recollections by Richard Bleil
She was lovely. A year or two ahead of me at my undergraduate university, she was a “residential advisor”, or “RA”, for the women’s dorm just down the hill from mine. For an awkward and unappealing young man like me, she was very kind and sweet. I absolutely adored her.
When someone from my past is on my mind, it’s not uncommon for me to write a blog, a kind of “tribute” piece. My astute readers may notice that I am referring to her in the past. It’s true I haven’t seen her since, well, before I graduated so we’re talking maybe 1983 or 1984 when she graduated. More than that, by 1986, she was dead.
No, this isn’t a piece about murder or drunk driving. Her death was quite accidental, and a great loss. I wouldn’t have ever known it, except that I found myself on campus running a task for work where I ran into a mutual friend who, quite upset, told me what had happened before running off. As it turns out, some time earlier she had gone on a ski trip during which she broke her leg. Unbeknownst to the doctors, a piece of bone marrow had gotten into her circulatory system, and although it took awhile to make the journey, once it reached her heart it was the end.
Nobody is to blame. It’s just a sad and tragic loss. But the reality is, this could happen to any of us for any reason. At 47, I had a severe heart attack. My arteries were so damaged that angioplasty failed. They had to perform an old fashioned actual triple bypass to correct the issue, but I was lucky. The company I was working with had a boss die of a heart attack less than a year earlier. He was a health fanatic, exercised regularly, and his heart attack killed him so quickly that he was found in a chair, after a run, with one sock on and the other in his hand as he was just beginning to take them off.
We just never know when somebody will be gone. Some people die long, slow and expected deaths as my father did in hospice. Others are simply gone, without so much as a sign that something is about to happen like the tragic loss of Meg.
Perhaps the reason Meg is on my mind is because of something that happened to my friend yesterday. Well, not my friend so much as her daughter. See, her daughter had the first of the vaccination shots yesterday and had a very dangerous reaction to it. I’ve never heard of such a response to the first shot, but it was severe enough that she ended up in the emergency room for treatment.
No, don’t use this post as an excuse to avoid the vaccination, but it is a reminder that any medical procedure, even as simple as a vaccination shot, comes with risks. What makes vaccination shots worth the risk is because they are all tested so thoroughly that they can demonstrate that the risk of danger from the shot is less than the danger of both catching the disease and the resulting potential consequences. In other words, the odds of catching the virus and dying from it are significantly higher than the risk of the shot, but, the risk of the shot is never, ever zero.
Yes, I’m a strong supporter of the vaccination. The point is not anti-vax, but rather, pro-love. We need to remember that those people in our lives are only there for a limited time. One way or the other, every relationship we’ve ever known will one day come to an end. Sometimes it’s a falling out, sometimes it’s somebody’s time. We cannot control the time of our demise, but we can control the time we have today, right now.
Of course, we cannot spend every hour with the ones we love, and if we tried, we probably wouldn’t love them much longer anyway. After all, everybody needs time to themselves occasionally, and spending too much time together can erode even the strongest relationship, but we can always reach out. We can meet our loved ones, or call, or text, or (like I like to do) even write an occasional old-fashioned and outdated letter. We can show our appreciation in our words, in our actions, or even gifts, favors, or by doing the dishes. My suggestion is that you take a moment, after reading this, to reach out to that person, or those people, who mean the most to you. Let them know that you’re thinking of them, tell them that you love them, and count as a blessing the time you have had and will have with them.