On the Death of a Young Woman

The Length of EternityYesterday news came that a young woman we had known briefly, call her Miss C, had died after several years of intermittently successful treatments for various cancers. She was 30.

For as long as we were acquainted with her — only the last two years of her life — she was either suffering from her illness or suffering from the medicine meant to cure her. Yet she was renowned for having an omnipresent smile, a crooked grin as cute as the doo-rag she wore to cover her balding pate. We learned from a mutual friend that much of Miss C’s life had been filled with sickness, and that she longed to be well long enough so that she could do all the things healthy people take for granted: travel, dine out, have a boyfriend.

Miss C died without ever having a lover, or seeing Paris, or dancing a waltz. She was shuttled from hospital ward to home, from one medical specialist to another, pausing briefly to attend family holiday celebrations, where she would assure everyone that she was feeling better and that soon her hair and vitality would return. The last time we saw her, a few months ago, she looked better than ever, and her confidence that the pernicious rogues devouring her spinal column were finally vanquished forever seemed warranted. She looked like a reasonably healthy young woman, and her girlish giggle let everyone know that despite her travails she was still a light-hearted and hopeful soul.

Miss C is gone now. And we’re reminded again, starkly and chillingly, that the life we take for granted is precious and rare.

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