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Roz Randorf, Published April 05 2014

Letter: Deep grief lingers long after ‘what’ and ‘when’

I’ve never given much thought to what I would write in an obituary. Mine or anyone’s for that matter. Until now. I wrote one recently for someone I miss so much. So much that it is 3 a.m. and I’m writing about him now.

You probably know of him, or read about him. He was a pilot. But to me he was my soul mate and best friend. We shared memories of attending Central Junior High together in Moorhead where we first met, a home, a son, a business and a lot of yet-to-be fulfilled dreams.

For those of us who have lost someone in a public way, we sit back and watch media and investigations that tantalize onlookers who thirst for details. They distance themselves comfortably and watch the news as crash debris is collected or autopsies are released.

The disappearance of Malaysian Flight 370 turned into a virtual 24/7 mini-series: broadcasters probing to be first to report the ping as they search for the black box, or break news as the plot thickened.

The what, why and when seem to trump the who, and most definitely the who left behind.

Kevin’s death has changed me. It has made me realize that even though our natural curiosity looks for the what and the why, his death has made me tilt my head ever so slightly to observe not so much the tragedies but rather the survivors. Because they are out there. I imagine what it was like for Mrs. Skuza to read about Fargo police officer Jeff’s death. How difficult that must have been to tend to her own healing and her children as the public consumed the story. I know what it feels like to see your loved one on the front page.

I still feel the raw pain after the release of the NTSB report on our case 11 months and 25 days after the airplane crash, only to have it made public on the eve of what would have been Kevin’s 49th birthday. I know what it is like to console grieving parents who lost their only son or comfort a young son who lost his daddy.

My perspective on death makes me think about the recent headlines of a family that lost their beautiful 4-year-old daughter to an unthinkable illness. I imagine their pain and the journey to recovery that they have only just begun.

Or the South Dakota family who is faced with the death of a son to a gun accident.

I pause each day, just a little longer, as I read the obituary page with my new found sensitivity toward those who wrote the words and what they were feeling. I remember trying to write Kevin’s, only to have my tears get in the way.

My story isn’t unique. Death is a part of life. Maybe that’s why we are fascinated. There are grief workshops (which I should probably attend), businesses built around catering to negotiating the matters of death. None of us can escape it. It is painful regardless of the hows or whys and it is just as painful whether it made headlines or not.

I still work on my own journey of grief. I have good days and bad. I have begun to write my own obituary. Not in the morbid, I’m-going-to-die sense, but in the how-am-I-going-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life sense. What words will my children use when they think about me? What is my legacy? God willing, I still have time to create it.

Randorf is vice president for advertising, Forum Communications Co., Fargo.