Mourning the life Gunilla and others missed |

Mourning the life Gunilla and others missed

Michael Bennett
From the Publisher
Mike Bennett
Staff Photo |

My counterpart at the Aspen Times, Gunilla Asher passed on Monday morning.

When I heard the news, lines from a Ralph Stanley recording of a traditional folk song “O Death” went through my mind:

“Oh death please consider my age

Please don’t take me at this stage”

Death is not considerate. Gunilla was just 42 and was the second young colleague of mine taken recently from this world. Lindsey Cloutier, with whom I worked in Niles, Mich., was just 31 when death took her nearly a month to the day before Gunilla’s passing. These women did not know each other yet they had so many similarities. Both were in the newspaper business with strong advertising backgrounds. Both were party starters and lived life to the fullest. They filled a room with joy and brightness. And they were both taken from this world by cancer much too young.

Ironically, we have been publishing a series about the high rate of suicide in our region. What drives an individual like Gunilla to go after life with gusto as she fought hard through a painful disease with only the hope of adding days, or, with luck, a couple of years to her life? Then there are others so full of inner struggles that they see their only solution to take their own life. Why is that?

When I was much younger, death was so frightening. Shortly after I was able to comprehend the subject, I asked my dad on his birthday, “How much time do you have left?” He reassured me that he had plenty of time.

For years after he would humor himself on his birthday by asking me, “Aren’t you going to ask me how much time I have left?” This tradition went on for nearly 80 years, and I always obliged him by asking the same question. Until he hit his 82nd birthday he responded in the same manner. His response on that birthday with a smile was “not much.”

He passed away in 2008.

As I approach 62 with these two premature deaths in my mind, I realize it was not a fear of death but rather a fear of not experiencing life that bothered me most. I no longer fear death. Life has been good. It saddens me when I think about the vast amount of life Gunilla will miss. She leaves behind two young children and a loving husband, not to mention hundreds, perhaps thousands, of friends.


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