I read a book a while back called Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.  (Well, to be honest, I listened to it as an MP3.)  If you are interested in reading this book, which I read because it was recommended by my old book club, then don’t read this post, since I’m about to discuss how it ends.

It was an odd story, not at all what I had expected from the title, which was all I knew about the book before listening to it.  A group of individuals invited to the birthday party of the head of an unnamed state are captured and held hostage by local guerillas.  They are held for months.  During the course of the story, two pairs of characters who would not have otherwise met each other fall madly in love.  The lives of the two sets of lovers is somewhat entwined, as they assist each other in their liaisons.  When they are finally rescued by government forces, one member of each pair is killed.  The epilogue of the book reveals that the surviving lovers get married.  I found this ending unbelievably odd, something that simply didn’t ring true to me at all.  Wouldn’t the sight of the other person constantly remind you of your loss, rather than keep the memory of your previous love alive?

Well, I recently discovered a similar situation in real life, and it baffles me and disturbs me on a very strange level, one I can’t quite express.

I had a friend who was killed in a tragic accident several years ago.  We were never really close, and had lost touch over time, but mutual friends informed me of his death, and of the fact that his new wife had survived him.  She was pregnant at the time of his death, a truly tragic story.  I had never met her, but felt very deeply for her loss.

Another friend from the same group, someone else I was never very close to but who I have stayed nominally in contact with, was recently engaged.  I have seen photos he’s posted online of his then girlfriend, now fiance, and a child.  They all live together.  But, as you may have suspected, I recently figured out that this fiance is our deceased friend’s former wife, and the child is this friend’s child.  And I simply can’t imagine the scenario where they met. 

The two men were good friends when I knew them.  Did my two  friends stay close after I lost touch with them, so the current couple knew each other while she was still married?  Did they meet at or after the funeral?  Is there some odd twist of fate, where they met independently and then discovered their connection?  

I think many of us have had a relationship with friends who are a couple, where we joked that we would marry our friend’s spouse if he or she were to die.  I know I have, and that doesn’t seem odd.  But to follow through on this joking promise?  I just don’t know how that would work.  I wish I could ask, but we are barely acquaintances at this point, he and I, and it really is none of my business.  It is just my curiosity getting the better of me.

To be clear, I am not judging them — they appear extremely happy, they all three obviously love one another, and I am sure that between themselves it all makes sense.  I just can’t imagine what it must be like.  How do you fall in love with your dead husband’s close friend?  How do you raise your deceased friend’s child?  Maybe I need to have recovered from the loss of someone that close (god forbid) to understand how these things can work. Perhaps it is the best tribute a friend could give.  Maybe those memories they both share of the child’s father add to their love for one another, which is something separate that grew over time. 

Does anyone else have a thought, or can you share an insight?  Do you know someone else, or have you yourself been, in a similar situation?

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