My grandmother, the wife of the grandfather I wrote about last post, died in February, the same month both my brother and I were born. It was about four months after this death that my mother found out she was pregnant with me, and the timing of this arrival/departure combo is the most singular fact of my existence.
Without going into too much detail, my mother adopted my brother after about six years of struggling with infertility and failing to have a child. It was her dream, for some reason or another, to have several children, and she continued with treatments for another six years before giving up. Eight years later, her mother died, and almost immediately afterwards her twenty years of wishing and waiting were over.
She told me once when I was younger that she felt like her mother had given me to her, like maybe some kind of afterlife bargaining had brought me to life. It made me feel so heavy to think that I might only be alive because someone I never knew had died. It also made me feel like I mattered very, very much.
I was named after this woman: Heather Arlene. Heather because of Arlene. But for owing so much to this Arlene character, I know next to nothing about her. There aren't a lot of videos or pictures of her, and all I've really ever gathered from what anyone who knew her has to say is that she was pretty much the nicest lady, and an extremely good cook. If I ask for details, everyone just comes back to that one word Nice. She was just so very Nice.
Going through my grandfather's house we found Arlene's high school yearbook. Everyone in her year has a single-word description next to their picture. They range from preferable traits like Intelligent and Witty, to the rather unfortunate Fleshy (honestly, why did they let that get printed?), and by far my favorite, Unconcerned. But guess what Arlene has next to her name? Nice. Is it possible for someone to be so nice that the word completely takes over everyone's memory of them?
I wish I could be more like this person, whoever she is. I wish I could be Nice.
Since I tossed all my belief systems into the muck between Yes and No, I don't feel like I owe this person anything anymore. I'm not sure about afterlives or what sway, if any, our words can have on god, but I know that even if it's true, even if I am Heather because of Arlene, the only way to repay her is to live. No matter how it came to pass, I am alive, and that is most important thing ever.
Again, without going into too much detail, I didn't always see it this way.
So I want to take this moment to thank Arlene, the nicest person I've never met, for giving my life some value when I couldn't see its worth. While I've never been worse off financially, and have never felt less successful in my life, everything is so much better now. I get it. I'm alive.