Death connects us

I received a call from a dear friend yesterday: my best friend from high school. We stay in touch. Have tea every few months.

She was crying and said she had bad news. I braced myself for news about her husband or children. The news wasn’t that close to home but close to each of our hearts.

An avalanche.

It happens.

You hear about a skiier or hiker losing their life to this formidable power of nature. But you don’t usually recognize their name.

Until yesterday.

A mutual friend. A school friend.

We were a grad class of about 23. Kindergarten to grade 12 with 250 students. Everyone knew everyone. In a school that size, you move through like family. Teachers knew your parents … sometimes taught them! Definitely taught your siblings.

But why her?

“She was the best of us,” I said to my friend on the phone. “Why her? Why now?” She had completed her PhD 4 weeks ago. We were all so proud of her.


It makes you stop.

Or move faster.

Depending on who you are.

You think it will make you hold your loved ones closer and crystallize that which you know is important.

But, today, while my heart opens for her family and her community — which was LARGE, she touched so many people — I feel as I often do when death walks by:

that I don’t know shit.

A blank slate.

An emptying.

Maybe it’s surrender to life because, in the end, we truly are powerless.

We cannot control this life.

We can only live it.

And Sonja lived it so well.

Her photos of mountain treks and ice climbing were awe-inspiring. Her love of nature was equalled by her love of people and her work to help them.

I can say that I am a better person for having known Sonja. Her huge heart held others quietly accountable.

“Stephie…” I can hear her say.

With her long hair and petit frame as a child, she loved ballet. Or maybe she didn’t. But she’d never complain about it. She’d dance on by with a laugh.

I didn’t spend much time with her as an adult … the usual: social media friendship, following her successes through photos and posts.

But when we did connect, regardless of how accomplished she was in her professional field, she was always Sonja: kind, funny, sweet and fierce.

Humanity is darker without her.

The heavens, brighter with her.

As the messages and phone calls fly, finding our classmates to inform them of the news and the pending memorial plans, Sonja is at work.

As she connected us all through her life…

she connects us once again through her death.

Travel well, my friend.

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