Many years ago, I had a young colleague named Danielle. We worked on isolating virus cultures in a laboratory, side-by-side under sterile hoods; and often our conversation meandered to stories of our respective families. Danielle had recently become engaged and was enjoying the preliminaries to her wedding, which was still some months away. Danielle had one sister, and their elderly parents were happily married, healthy and enjoying their respective retirements in the small rural town where she was born. Mostly, Danielle talked about her fiancé and the plans they were making.
One afternoon she received a phone call from someone in her hometown. This was before the days of cellular phones, so all of us in the lab were privy to Danielle’s responses on the lab phone. “Yes, this is she.” A pause. “What!? I don’t understand what you are saying. Please speak more clearly and ask me again.” Another pause. Danielle’s pallor and her tone of voice told us something was terribly wrong. “No, I don’t know about this. On the radio? How–? Wh–? Okay. Good-bye. I must call my sister right away.” And she hung up. “No, no, no, no, NO! This can’t be true!” Danielle quickly dug through her purse to find her sister’s phone number at work. “How can this be possible? Please, dear God, let it not be true! My folks’ neighbor says my parents have been in a horrible crash! She heard it on the local radio. This just can’t be true!” I moved to stand close to her.
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