Whether sudden or seen coming, it punctuates our story.
Our tribe's story includes us for a time; then, it does not.
Though, regardless of our intent, our story leaves an indelible mark on those that we leave behind.
I have lived through many such punctuations.
The death of a man who was larger than life and more epic in proportions than I had the capacity as a teenager to comprehend.
The death of a son that I only knew while he was in-utero and the brief moments after he was born -- a life unlived that haunts me with all of the untold stories about what he might have become.
The death of a woman whose brilliance was stripped from her in life as she slowly lost her ability to remember and comprehend reality.
The slow death of a friend whose penchant for calling me out on my bullshit was only matched by her hospitality and love through some of the most challenging times of my life.
The sudden loss of a friend and mentor who somehow knew exactly when I needed to be encouraged the most -- he called at the very moment I was sitting alone in my car on a very dark morning wondering how I had gotten to that place in my life.
Holding the hand of the woman who was the center of our extended family for as long as I could remember -- the woman whom I had snuck milkshakes and pizzas in the last year of her life in the retirement home.
Then just this last year, the loss of my dog of 15 years, three moves, and two careers.
He was a rescue and given to me by my wife on a day when I was struggling to find my way as a teacher.
I used to be angry, sad, and flirting with depression because of death.
Repeating unhealthy, self-destructive habits because I refused to allow myself to grieve and heal.
That is until I sat on top of a mountain and just cried.
I was wandering without an agenda and found an isolated place at 13,000 feet.
As I sat and took in the view of what seemed like the entirety of the Southeastern quarter of Colorado, I began to cry.
And the tears did not stop as I began to sob.
It is a unique experience to sob at high altitude.
It is hard enough to breathe already, so the sobs come in waves, and I am sure sounded like seal cries.
For an unclear amount of time, the waves of grief crashed hard.
But after the waves were done, the tide of emotion was allowed to ebb and flowed out.
Left in its wake were peace and perspective.
I am convinced that death is not the enemy.
Not something to be angry at, demand answers of, or rail against.
But it is instead death is the punctuations that amplify our stories.
Just like a run-on sentence without punctuation starts to lose its way, a story without end drags on and on bereft of meaning.
Our stories are punctuated by death and grief as much as they are by anticipation and joy.
Fleeing from the death and subsequent grief of those in our tribe, is like trying to hold back the tide -- at the end of the day, the waves win.
Do not demand answers of death; it is not inclined to give any.
But death and grief can amplify.
Amplify and enrich our stories by punctuating them.
"And then she died."
"And then he was gone."
But their stories leave an indelible imprint on us.
And as we embrace grief, we transition to a new part of the story without them.
The punctuation at the end of their life is not the end of the story, but a poignant transition to the rest of it.