Remembering Anita Jackson
If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses.
--The Band Perry
Death is never a welcome guest in our lives.
I've buried loved ones who died suddenly. I've buried loved ones whose death could be seen approaching from a long way off. The grief, the sadness over missing someone is the same. But there's something different when a young person passes away.
Ciara was twelve or thirteen, getting ready for school when she dropped dead from a heart attack. Josh, maybe 25, had arranged to bring his kids to live with him in Alaska. Before that could happen he was killed in a car crash while returning from a fishing trip.
And now Anita Jackson is gone. Anita was driving on the freeway when a tire blew, sending her truck into the guardrail and killing her. Her two-year old daughter, Tara, was injured but survived.
You put in the hard work, the hours, the mental and emotional effort to raise your kids and hopefully see them mature into adults capable of making their way in the world. You look forward to the time where you get to see what they do with their lives, what choices they make, what impact they have on others.
And then death takes that away from you.
The tragedy of death at a young age—the sharp knife of a short life, as the song says—is not being able to see what a young person's life could have become.
At least, that's what I thought when I first heard the news about Anita. But when I visited Mary, Anita's mother, in the hospital I saw all these other people I hadn't known; people from Anita's life who had been outside my field of view. I saw Tara's face light up when she saw Anita's boyfriend Kofi (I might be wrong on the spelling). With Kofi talking to her, Tara started drinking fluids for the first time since the accident. I heard about all the friends that had contacted Mary with their words of support and stories of how Anita had touched their lives.
No, I'll never know how Anita's life might have turned out. But judging from the impact she had already made, it gives me hope and some comfort. Stars that shine briefly still shine brightly.