There is no training in life to prepare you to find someone you love as the subject of an article about the victim of a “deadly house fire.” You are simply left to battle the denial, impossibility, and the understanding that nothing is okay in this world anymore. In fact, I still don’t fully believe I am writing this.
On Thursday night, the entire world lost something precious. For everywhere you went, Gail, you made a lasting positive impact. You are everything good about Southern Hospitality: your charm, your drawl, your unceasingly open arms, and your extreme generosity. And I would be hard-pressed not to mention your bless-your-heart-sass.
One afternoon, back when you and John lived next door to our family, you rang our bell wearing a brand new dress. You came to our threshold unannounced for one reason only that day: you wanted to show off your cute new outfit. I remember staring up at you thinking, this is what I want in the world – to be someone who knocks on a door to share something good and who encourages those around her to do the same. You taught me what it means to be a neighbor.
But “neighbor” doesn’t do you justice. I have never had the blessing of a big extended family. So when Kieran invited his many aunts, uncles, and cousins to our wedding, I invited my one aunt in this country and the people who were my stand-in family. You and John are my aunt and uncle – there is no doubt about that.
Who else would gift us their timeshare so we could go on a free honeymoon to Texas? Only family. Who else would share food from their garden and return Tupperware only if it was filled again with food? Only family. Who else would send us ornaments for our tree, aprons for our kitchen, and countless things back from their travels? Only family. Who watches children grow up and marvels lovingly at their metamorphosis? Who is there in front of the church to greet you as you enter in your wedding dress? Family, of course.
I can’t believe you are gone because I never thought you could be. You were the very definition of the word “alive.”
Maybe God needed you with Him. I can promise you one thing: like an angel from heaven, you brought good into this world even as you left it, Gail. On Friday night, the day we all found out, my entire family gathered together to just be with each other. That alone is a feat. Because of you, I made a friend at work who didn’t shy away from the hysterically crying stranger at the table. He talked to me about you. Later on, when I thanked him for his goodness, the kind of goodness you would have given, he teared up while saying he couldn’t stop thinking about you and the husband you left behind. My coworkers shined their light on me all day, and even got me to have a couple drinks before sending me home. You always know how to bring out the best in people, and I KNOW you would have approved of the drinks.
I cried myself to sleep that night, aching to my core for your wonderful husband who has to sleep alone. I hugged my own husband so tight. This is unfathomable, unacceptable, and the word “loss” doesn’t do it justice. You were supposed to come back and visit like you always do. You were supposed to do so much.
Please watch over us. And while you’re at it, go find my Uncle Chuck. You’ll crack him up.