The center of every man’s existence is a dream. Death, disease, insanity, are merely material accidents, like a toothache or a twisted ankle. That these brutal forces always besiege and often capture the citadel does not prove that they are the citadel.
—G.K. Chesterton, “The Position of Sir Walter Scott” in Twelve Types
My mother died on a snowless January morning high in a hospital room from whose window one could see pretty much into forever. Sudden failings in her body’s systems had taken hold—imbalances of blood and bone and lung. Frailty won the day. Fresh in our shock we gathered, reeling from the cruel slap of this impossibility. We got out mental notebooks and filled pages with long, quixotic lists, arguing with Providence about the absurdity of this person, our person, dying for no reason at all. Her professional accomplishments; her impeccable health regimes; her unobtrusive, back-row-Baptist godliness; her beloved mom-ness. We were insulted. How could this woman, who literally looked like a movie star on her wedding day and eschewed white bread consistently and invited kids off the Reservation to stay with us and knelt with a magnifying glass before every other flower in her garden to better behold its wonders, die?