One of the world’s most prominent women, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, suffered an unimaginable loss this week when her husband died in a freak accident while holidaying in Mexico with his family.
Lots of words are being written about Sheryl Sandberg today.
Words describing her relationship with her husband, words detailing her husband’s sudden death, words speculating on how it might feel to be her, words describing what she had and what she has lost.
Some of them are even her words, republished and polished so that we, her audience, might understand what she has lost in the midst of all that she had. After all, one of the reasons we know about Sandberg is her blockbuster book Lean In, which at its most basic is an upwardly mobile narrative of success, a recipe for her audience to apply to their lives.
But now Sandberg is in the news not because of her success but because of loss. Two days ago her husband, Dave Goldberg, died unexpectedly, and in that instant nothing, not money, not positive thinking nor fame could protect her from this.
You see, at the end of things we are all the same.
I’m thinking about Sandberg tonight because nearly 13 years ago my husband died young and suddenly. At the time he was being treated for severe depression and I had secretly feared his death but when the news of it came it was still a violent assault. Two years later my mother too died quickly. In 10 weeks she went from being a healthy, active grandmother to a skeletal shadow of herself. Cancer claimed her effortlessly.
In contrast to these sudden deaths I write this piece at the airport on the way to visit my father who is dying. He’s been dying for months now. Each time I travel to see him he is further into the business of it, it’s a sinking in, a shutting down and of course in the face of it I am absolutely powerless. Death does this to us. Forces us to face our own mortality. This is the third time I’ve walked to the edge of the world with someone I love and perhaps in contrast to my husband and mother, it is a little easier because he is older and his life has been full and his last years have been eaten away with pain. Death looks a little different for him. But I know on the other side, when he is gone I will be once again a foreign land and I will once again lose my way.