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Not to be a downer, but death has been on my mind lately. A week ago, a young alum from my college died in a car accident. A few days later, a girl I knew from high school dance team passed away. Then of course there are the high-profile deaths: the tragic bomb and shooting in Norway, the train accident in China, Amy Winehouse.

Like that list, this post is going to be a bit disjointed. I’m going to jump from thought to thought, the way I do in my Reading Reflections. Only this time, I’m not responding to the lines of a story; I’m responding to life. To death.

• I feel a responsibility to remember. I feel guilty because I didn’t know the guy, despite our mutual connections. I could have known him, but I didn’t. I feel worse, I think, because I did know the girl, and she was a lovely person. But in many ways I didn’t know her well “enough” — I don’t have a right to real grief.

• We wish we could make sense of it all, wish that the deaths had a larger purpose. Maybe for some people they do. Me, I’m still mulling it all over. Is purpose something we are given, or something we create? Does it make a difference?

• I cannot imagine what that 90 minutes was like for those kids. Or maybe the problem is that I can imagine, and it’s beyond terrifying. (Side note: I couldn’t help thinking, And that WSJ book reviewer doesn’t think kids live in hell? Hah. I know it’s not a typical situation, but still. Shit happens. All the time, all over the world.)

• More people on Twitter and Facebook posted about Amy Winehouse than Norway. Then came the backlash: why does a celebrity with a history of drug abuse get more attention than innocent children? On the one hand, I understand that sentiment, but on the other, everyone is allowed their opinions, their feelings. Sorrow shouldn’t be a competition.

A recent piece in New York Magazine talked about how Twitter and Facebook may be more “lifelike” than books or articles,because of their lack of narrative structure. They don’t give happy endings or closure. They just simply record our natural timeline, reflecting our reactions as they unfold. Maybe that is more like real life. Maybe that’s never more clear than when we’re faced with death.

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