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Loss and Thanksgiving
An Essay by NPR's Neva Grant

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Neva Grant

Neva Grant

Nov. 22, 2001 -- On the night of Sept. 13 -- the night we knew David was dead -- my sister Paula and I sat in her bedroom in New York City, listening to a thunderstorm. David was my brother-in-law, Paula's husband. They had talked for the last time two days earlier when he called to reassure her that he was okay, that the plane had hit the other tower-- not his -- and that he was fine. A few moments later, the phone had gone dead.

And so there we were. Two nights later, sitting on her bed, listening to thunder that sounded like bombs. And I remember thinking that we would be marooned on that bed for the rest of our lives. But then the next day came, and somebody cleared the dishwasher and made coffee. And now 10 weeks have gone by. And today maybe you're wondering what does a person, who's been through this, have to be thankful for? And I can tell you: a lot. In fact, Paula said I could only tell her story if I focused on the good things -- the things she'll talk about tonight when we go around the table and say why we're grateful.

"Early on into this, Paula looked at me and asked: how can an act of such evil give rise to such love?"

Neva Grant

Starting with David. Such a vital presence in Paula's life that she says she can conjure him up at any time. I can put him in any room in the house, she says. She is grateful for who he was, for the good decisions they made in their marriage: how to live, how to have a family, two children or three? They had three. And now, she says, the children are her strength. Because they're young -- all boys -- they force her to laugh and run and yell and wrestle and breathe in the warm air of other human beings every day.

And who will help her raise these boys? We will -- aunts and uncles and grandparents, cousins, friends and neighbors and teachers. All of us. Literally hours after David was killed, the walls of Paula's nuclear family broke down and the village moved in. A neighbor put together a book that pulls out like an accordion, with photographs of every house on both sides of the street, about 50 in all. Each photograph has a note underneath with prayers, an offer to baby-sit, do an errand, change a tire or a light bulb. Then there were the closest friends, the people who came over just to sit with her when she felt too brittle to be held. There was the artist who hung a huge canvas on a blank wall in her living room, the friend who bought presents so that Paula's youngest son could have his 5th birthday party.

"At David's memorial service, on the programs just under his name, was a quote that Paula found. It says, 'I will not die until love dies, and you will not let love die.' "

Neva Grant

Early on into this, Paula looked at me and asked: how can an act of such evil give rise to such love? But she's stopped asking that question. She has learned to make room in her life for its impossible extremes: good, evil, evil, good -- they run together now, as familiar as the hot and cold water that runs in her sink. But Paula is brave enough to be almost sure that there is more of one than the other.

At David's memorial service, on the programs just under his name, was a quote that Paula found. It says, "I will not die until love dies, and you will not let love die." No, you won't, Paula, and neither will we. For that, WE give thanks.

Neva Grant is a Senior Producer on Morning Edition.