So Frail, So Precious

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Your heart breaks — and trembles at such a harsh reminder of how fragile life remains.

We grieve with all the many friends of Roxanne Charley, who died yesterday after a Sunday fall that left her paralyzed from the neck down.

She lived a brave, full, kind, productive life. She had courage and heart. Her friends had it right: “She was absolutely beloved.”

Her death seems shocking and random. A fluke of wind slammed a door and trapped her on the upper deck of a home under construction. She was fit and athletic and intrepid. She figured she could climb down to the deck below — and get back in time to serve the roast to her dinner guests.

But she slipped. She fell. She broke her back. The doctors said if they operated they could save her life — but she would remain paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of that life. She decided not to have the surgery, not to live dependent and trapped in a body that could no longer do the things she’d loved all her life. The decision may shock some — but others understand that horror of dependence. She had lost her daughter to cancer. So she knew something of pain and of loss. She had lived a full and joyful life — but decided not to cling to it, to live in the shadows.

It broke our hearts to think of it — to lose her.

But we drew some comfort as well, from the adjacent pictures of a boy in the full, joyful flush of life enlisting his teammates to ask his sweetheart to the prom.

For life is full of triumph and loss — and terribly brief. So we smile through the tears, rise up in hope and tremble in fear. All at once. And know that life is all the more precious for that fearful frailty.

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