Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lookin' for answers

As a librarian I'm in the answer business and I like it. I answer questions all day long, no 2 days are the same and usually no 2 questions.
Over the past few days it seems like everyone who has seen the news or followed the story online is asking the same questions...How can a vibrantly alive woman fall down, hit her head, shake it off, talk and laugh afterwords but wind up dead within hours? I'm talking about the actress Natasha Richardson who woke up Monday morning and decided to practice skiing and after a seemingly minor stumble ended up brain dead within a few hours.
Why? Why did she fall? How did she fall? Why didn't she rush to the hospital? Why did she die? Did she suffer? Did she say her goodbyes? Sure a few people know the answers to some of these questions, maybe her ski instructor, or the emergency room doctor or her husband. Through the invasion of the modern media we will know some of the answers in the coming days but will the fundamental questions that we all fear ever be answered? Can it happen to us? And what happens after you die?

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and do you know what the first thing that popped into my head was? Is that beautiful woman/mother/wife/artist/friend/ daughter/sister lying in the morgue? Sure I'm a prime example of too much media but it also serves the purpose of awareness. Awareness of the morality of someone like Natasha Richardson which somehow makes a senseless tragedy like hers larger in our consciousness.

If someone asked me at my library what the cause of her death was I could direct them to resources that explain what an epidural hematoma is (the medical examiner of NY says that is what killed Natasha). Question answered. If someone asked me what happens to you after you die I could direct them to any number of resources including medical, religious and philosophical. Maybe question answered. If someone asks me, can it happen to me? Question unanswered.

Here is what I know. She fell down. She got treatment. It wasn't enough. She died. She's in the morgue. Hearts are broken. The media is intrusive. The public has an insatiable appetite for tragedy.
No one anywhere has the answers her family wants. I don't like that.

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