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David Strauss (Club Med)

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I am writing you a letter too late. You are already gone and there was much I had to say. Since we last spoke, my head has been swimming with countless thoughts, raw emotions, and precious memories. I having been finding it very hard to write these words because it has been next to impossible to really focus on anything, let alone piece together something coherent, since I read Karl's shattering e-mail.

 Yet, I feel I must somehow string together the words and sentences I first started just hours after we spoke - no doubt to help with the healing process, as insurmountable as that now seems. 

No written words have ever hit me so hard as the ones I read last Thursday morning: "Jen died at six this morning." I cut and pasted those words right from Karl's e-mail and placed them here within this letter. I so easily changed the font type and size as I did this match, and thought - for just a moment - that perhaps I could change the words themselves . . . "Jen woke at six this morning," or somehow make those cold words just disappear altogether . . . You see, I simply cannot fathom these words. "Jen died at six this morning." 

I wince when I think them and I absolutely cannot say them. I am still completely dumbstruck. Like your illness came upon you, these harsh and glaring words came at me far too quickly, without hesitation, and without mercy. In this light, no words are more appropriate. You see, I've never really lost anyone so close to me. When my grandparents died, I was deeply saddened, but they were pretty old, living far from me, and I had not seen them for some time. 

It is incomprehensible to me that it could be someone like you . . . so young, so beautiful, and so good. Jennifer, other than my wife, you were my closest female friend in the world, one with whom I spoke every few weeks since we met six short years ago. Remarkably, I can only count five different occasions in which were physically together in the six years we have known each other. And none lasted any longer than our first meeting while on vacation in the Caribbean, where we were nearly inseparable for a week. 

From the moment when you helped introduce me to the underwater world of scuba diving and the most beautiful natural sights I have ever seen, we immediately connected. There was absolutely nothing we could not and did not talk about. I know this speaks much less about me than you because I am certain that all those who have called you a friend would no doubt say the same thing. You were - (the past tense still does not compute) - perhaps the best female friend an already-spoken-for guy could have. Intelligent, funny, playful, adventurous, flattering ("Hey sexy boy," you would begin each of our calls. "Hey little hottie," I would always answer.), and the best listener a friend could ask for. 

You were always there for me in all my times of need over the past few years, and there were many. You were unbelievably interested in listening and helping out, even though you no doubt had just been dealing with other people's issues for hours that day. When I couldn't figure out relationship and commitment issues, you were there with insight and advice. And when I suffered through a true and profound existential crisis, manifested by panic attacks as I struggled with concepts of life and death, you were there, full of patience and understanding. 

How bitterly ironic that I am again faced head-on with such existential issues and anxieties, both brought on by your passing and yet, somewhat more manageable because of your friendship and guidance . . . Jennifer, rather than try to neatly package the various questions that have flitted about my mind since I first started this letter just a day before we lost you, let me list them here to help get them off my mind...

Why could I not find some doctor somewhere who could have made you healthy again? I know lots of people, and they know people . . . so where is the healer among us? We can clone people and do a million other absurd things with technology, but yet we could not heal you? 
Why was I a couple of minutes late for your "healing ritual"? Could that have made some difference for you?
Why couldn't I think of something more significant and uplifting to say during my last, difficult conversation with you a couple of days before you died? What sort of solace could I have been to you? 
How is it possible that you will not know such things as how Bush does as President, or who won this year's Super Bowl, or what the next Sarah McLachlan album will sound like? 
How is it possible that you will not meet Eliana, my little girl? 
What were you thinking and feeling when you understood that your struggle was a losing one? How scared were you? How sad? If you truly found peace, how did you do it? 
What visions did you have about life and death? What meaning did you ascribe to everything? 
Why are we plagued with "consciousness"? that evolutionary, fluke side-effect of our brains that results in so much angst, so much emotional pain? Are we really better off with it, or would it not be better to be a goat or a fish or a tree . . . ? How does one become God-fearing if, for no other reason, than to ease this pain? 

Plainly, I have far more questions than answers. Maybe I should just focus on that which I know to be true and not struggle with that which I do not (cannot?) know. 

So, these are some of the things I know:

that my wife and I bought a new house today, but it is only a house. 
that when my baby daughter smiles at me, or my wife hugs me, or my parents love me, everything is alright. 
that, in the relatively short time we knew each other, I introduced you to three friends of mine and each, drawn to your spirit and soul, developed an independent and strong friendship with you.
that your radiant face, your playful smile, and your penetrating voice are still sharp in my mind.
that when I could only understand a few words of our last phone call - that you loved me and that you were ready to die - that was enough. 
and that with your life, you put things in perspective for me, and so too do you with your death.   

David Strauss (25th January 2001)

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Page last updated: Monday, 05 March 2001 09:33:58 Eastern Time.