Saturday, July 07, 2007

Bitter and Sweet. Mostly Bitter.

Last Wednesday, Jon and I had our orphan friends Bill and Nancy over for dinner. Bill's wife is a firefighter and was working her typical 24 hour shift, while Nancy's husband was on a business trip in California. As we were wrapping up dinner, my work phone rang. I thought it odd, but figured it must be someone on the west coast forgetting the time difference and dismissed it. Minutes later, my cell phone rang. I noticed that it was my friend Tricia from Florida but because we had company and were having dinner, decided to let it go to voicemail. When the home phone rang, I thought something was amiss and answered. Reliving what I heard from the voice on the other end of the phone still makes my throat clench.

Tricia: "Leila was killed in a car accident."
Me: "What?"
Tricia: "Leila was killed in a car accident."
Me: "What?"

Tricia: "Leila was killed in a car accident."

I fell silent for what felt like forever. I think I believed that if I stopped speaking, time would slow, my mind would stop racing, and this voice would stop filling my head with seven simple words that suddenly made no sense.

When I finally mustered my voice, my response was "What do you mean?"

As if "Leila was killed in a car accident" could be any less plain.

When I was in college, the Baruch sisters: Leila, Shena, and Estelle, were famous--at least in Gainesville, Florida. Each one of them beautiful, infinitely talented, fiercely loyal, wickedly smart, and terribly sweet in their own unique way, but to know one was to know each of them. The sisters were a package deal--when I befriended Shena because our boyfriends were house mates, I instantly had not one, but three new friends.

It is hard to believe that was 15 years ago and naturally, so much has changed since then. Shena moved to California and back, married and now has two children. Estelle is engaged and living in Tel Aviv, making music in Elephant Parade. Leila moved to St. Augustine to be closer to the surf and married four years ago. She and her husband were expecting their first baby, Lloyd Asberry Davis, IV. Leila was seven months pregnant when she and her baby died.

So what is the sweet? Certainly it wasn't the tears or the seemingly infinite sadness that rocked this group of family and friends. Sweet wasn't the space left by the loss of a daughter, sister, wife, niece, and friend. Sweet wasn't the loss of a baby boy, surely destined to uphold his legacy of grace and talent.

If there is to be any sweetness, it is in the reminders. Being reminded of the details about Leila that were so much a part of her as to be indistinct until now. Being reminded of the impact she had on so many lives, as evidenced by the numbers in attendance at her funeral service. Being reminded of who your friends are by their desperation to do something, anything, to help soothe the pain.

We would all take Leila and baby Lloyd back in place of these reminders but we were not consulted.

As Shena said so poignantly, "Grief is just love. Grief is love that has no place to go."

Leila Jean Baruch Davis
May 23, 1970 - June 27, 2007


Liz said...

Oh Kate, this is so sad, such tragedy. I am so sorry. She was clearly an amazing woman and surely touched the lives of all you that knew her and will remember her. Bitter and sweet, indeed.

Kate said...

Thanks, Liz. It is hard, as everyone knows who has been touched by the loss of a friend or loved one. I think of Leila every day when I wake up.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that post. You are a wonderful writer. You know this means a lot to me.

Anonymous said...

Kate -
I found your blog on the internet searching for information about Leila. She was a good friend in high school my junior and senior year when I didn't have many friends. Another former classmate told me last week that Leila had passed away, but they didn't know any details. We had lost touch after graduation, but I think of her often - she helped me realize that I didn't need to care what anyone else thought, just be myself. Her loss is the world's loss as she certainly made her little corner a better place.
-Heather (Henderson) Theriault

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing Leila with me. I never knew her even though Lloyd's great grandmother Nellie Bailey Davis, was my dad's sister. I've taken the liberty of adding your blog to her notes in my family tree. She will be remembered by some of the family who were never lucky enough to know her.
Myrtice Bailey Scabarozi

Anonymous said...

I still find myself returning to read this from time to time. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Kate said...

Nancy, I'm glad it offers you some comfort. We never forget Leila. -Kate