When I was in elementary school, one of the girls in my class died. If I remember right, it was from a brain tumor. She wore hearing aids and thick glasses. She was made fun of for those, and I can’t say with perfect certainty that I didn’t make fun of her either, it was a long time ago, and I, like most children, could be awful.

My dad took me to her showing. I signed the guest book. I looked at the corpse of the girl I barely knew, laying in that fancy box. I didn’t know what to do with myself. And we left. A few days later the funeral home sent me a thank you card on behalf of Nicolette Keller’s parents, who I hadn’t met and I don’t know if it had even occurred to me that they’d have been there at the showing. As a nine year old, I was poorly prepared for my own emotions about the situation, let alone other people’s.

Nicolette Keller's obituary printed in the Detroit Free Press November 1st, 1991

Even at that time, death wasn’t real to me. I remember my teenage years, I had that immortality that all teenagers have. Death still wasn’t real. Danger had no consequence. Life would go on forever.

Once my own mortality bubbled up in my consciousness as a real thing, and that one day The Reaper would come for me, I started to be haunted by Nicolette. Any idea that was tied to my own death, she’d be, at least, in the wings. Death could come at any time at all, for anyone, regardless of any and all externalities.

With 2020 being the year of COVID-19, she’s been in my head more than usual.