If the dead were to truly come back, what would they come back knowing? Could we face them? We who allowed them to die? The clear light of day tells me that I did not allow John to die, that I did not have the power, but do I believe that? Does he?
I wonder how many other readers -- OK, women readers -- recognized in themselves the remarkable sense of culpability that Joan Didion described in that passage in The Year of Magical Thinking. After more depressing news about the abduction of reporter Jill Carroll, I said, "Why isn't her mother over there, looking for her?" My husband looked at me as if I were crazy. "How do you know her mother isn't there?" he asked. "And what would she do if she were?"
"Ask around," I said, "until she found her."
Drive safely, I say to my daughter every time she leaves the house with the car keys, because I believe that by saying it I can will it to be true. Stay in the air, I say to the plane as we hit turbulence over the Atlantic. I do not sleep during the twelve-hour flight. If I doze off, who will keep us all safe.