The horrific nature of my sister’s sudden death changed the color of the universe. Before she died the realm of existence was essentially a beautiful one, pleasant and continuously improving wherever you looked—and you might encounter petty annoyances here and there or have a bad or exhausting day; and brutal, petty, disgusting things were happening all the time in very distant places you’d never really seen with your own eyes, but still, there was an underlying order to the organization of this place. The world was a library filled with perfect laws, following a specific plan that definitely existed even if you were only capable of catching faint glimpses of the shelves and catalogs in the dark. There was little reason to doubt this.
Now everything is different; chalk up that essential American enthusiasm as another lost illusion shed on the path to objectivity. I’m in the position of a man who has lost something infinite, with no true reason or explanation given to me by anyone or anything, as if the deprivation of endless beauty could ever be justified. I am divided here. Half of me only believes in chaos and hell; the other half suspects that my sister’s death was still a part of that inscrutable order, and served as one of countless steps along the way to an end that is invisible to me, and probably always will be, at least for as long as I am a human being.
These ideas flowed over my eyes as my wife and I, several nights ago, randomly ran into a small stray dachshund as we were walking up a very steep hill to our apartment. I only saw the dog for a moment, and though it didn’t have a collar and seemed to have scratched away half of the fur from its belly, there was a comfortably obese Korean family walking nearby, and I thought somehow the two were associated; only a few moments later, after the dog was long gone, did I realize that it was a stray, probably abandoned a few weeks before by some irredeemably callous personality. I was up in our apartment by this time, but I ventured back out into the cold dark for a few minutes to see if I could find it, and though of course it was long gone I was still given a few minutes by myself, without any distractions, to suddenly think over how my life has changed.
The sadness of the poor dog overwhelmed me, actually. It was late and the neighborhood was empty and almost silent: from a telephone pole strung up and knotted and tangled with numerous electric wires came the sound of keys tinkling in a gasp of cold wind, and this noise in the quiet made me think of how lonely and sad the dog must be, shivering in the night, and how I was now totally powerless to help it because I had missed a brief opportunity to try to coax it inside our apartment building. Everything around me now relates to my sister, she consumes and transfixes my mind, I am eternally returning to her; the parallel between the two losses is obvious, and as I walked through the valley of tar and cement I could not help but suspect the dark cruelty of the universe.
There were other moments over the past few days that tie into the acceptance stage of my grief and frustration: while walking through the hub of Sasang, crowded now with subways and bus stations and light rails thundering on the overpass and roaring cars and taxis and bicycles and motorbikes and pedestrians pumped along metropolitan arteries by the most powerful and invisible urge, I was forced into admiration for the god(s) who create and preserve and destroy everything around us, the deities who have not only made this amazing place but keep every soul and star flying along its paths, whether preordained or not. The world seemed so incredible that only incredible and immortal powers, beyond all reach of our science, could possibly sustain it.
The last image was possibly a consolation: a sudden glance out the bathroom window to a blue windshield splashed with blue rainwater, the reflections of windy trees and soaring apartment buildings warped in its cool glass, telling me (like a mirror held to my heart) that Gwen’s death was required by a reason that would make sense to me if I could see it, that she still exists somewhere, and that all of us will meet again.