Tonight, there is a quiet heartbeat offering rhythm to the stillness. One hand rests against the cold car window, illuminated by the occasional rush of passing headlights, and the emptiness is made less by the low hum of familiar voices from the front seat. Distant houses sit tucked between the hills like half-dying embers, the warm glow of their kitchen windows framed by swaying pine trees that bend low in the shadows. A handful of scattered stars reflect dimly in a passing pond, and from somewhere in the shifting darkness, a memory surfaces—last semester’s environmental science class, graphs and numbers on a blurry screen, a moment of simple surprise.
Suddenly, there is an eagerness for home.
Doors swinging open, wrestling with grinning brothers, bedroom lamps switching off to the sound of whispered laughter. Bending over the laptop, music turned down low, searching through folders and virtual textbooks and empty webpages in silent frustration until a familiar link surfaces and a small sound of triumph echoes in the quiet room.
How many people were born the same year as you?
Tired eyes, fingers on the keyboard. Numbers, spinning, falling into place.
133, 711, 000 children were born the same year as you. Today, 94% are alive. 6% are dead.
There is a sudden rush of air conditioning from the vent on the floor—gentle, but far too cold.
A lack of words is a funny thing, especially when my little universe usually seems to be drowning in them.
to the eight million kids who didn’t get to see it,
Guess what? The moon was so bright tonight. It seemed awfully small to be offering all that light, just a silver half-circle mostly hidden between the rolling clouds of a future thunderstorm, but I’m guessing that you would’ve been pretty happy to see it. For all I know, maybe you watched it come alive as the sun set, and the view was so much better from there than it is from here. All I can do is hope and wonder about where your souls found home.
I don’t know why I’m thinking about you specifically, when you’re such a small group amidst an infinite ocean of departed sons and daughters and enemies and wanderers and friends. But the world is always easier to understand from a self-centered point of view, and I guess I just feel this oddly deep connection to you—some of you could have been my friends, and that’s such a strange thing to consider.
You’d be seventeen or eighteen by now, and maybe some of you made it that far. Those are, to me, the in-between ages—when you sit somewhat sleepily at the edge of a still-vivid childhood, squinting uncertainly forward into the wide, blurry, terrifying expanse of future existence. It’s a good time to find some fellow confused young person and spend too many hours discussing the universe while you’re both waiting for life to grab tightly hold of you and really begin.
If I could, I’d have those conversations eight million times, because I’m so curious about every single one of you. Who would you be by now? Quiet, loud, angry, tired, broken, hopeful, bitter, excited, scared? So many things all at once with nowhere to release the chaos? I’d offer you a seat on the couch and bring you some unhealthy yet comforting snack and we could just talk about everything.
Surely not all of you had the chance to understand death before it stopped your heart, but maybe some of you grasped the concept all too well. Maybe you even longed for it, romanticized it, wanted the end more than anything that comes before—and I wonder, if you could do it over again, would you still see life as something that’s not worth holding on to?
I don’t know. I can’t know anything about any of you, but I do know this: You were here, wholly human, hopefully well loved, and you died—but first, and more importantly, you lived.
As I make tea at the beginning of the day with half-closed eyes, drive uncertainly down empty roads, watch wide-eyed animals dart between the trees at dusk, hide from eternally energetic siblings, wrestle some new violin piece into submission, soak up the words to my favorite songs at two in the morning, think too much, run, talk, sing, work, sleep, wander, write, listen, live—
I remember you, and I feel a little extra grateful for it all.