You know, you think after losing a parent and a younger brother, plus a couple of familiars, your career, your home, your livelihood, and maybe your will to continue to exist, you think you'd have a pretty good handle on loss and grief. Turns out that isn't the case at all. Maybe grief has no bottom. Maybe I have a lot to get through this time around (not that I ascribe to reincarnation). Maybe I am grieving in anticipation of losing Cooder and my mom. I don't have a fucking clue about anything except that my heart is broken and I hurt.
Welcome to middle age where you don't know who or what will go next. And you don't know if you want it to be you.
I am not at liberty to disclose details of this particular round of sorrow, other than to say a dear friend, a most precious being, will be leaving sometime much too soon. I suppose I should have been reading between the lines and not hoping for the magic to work, not expecting that our friendship and association would be restored, if even for a time.
And now I must assimilate, calculate, understand how to fill the gap. That the far-flung and mind-blowing conversations and bottles of red wine and flights of fancy and listening to his particularly astute arrangements of Dylan songs in front of the fire are not part of my future.
As this person goes back to my germinal years in my (mis)chosen profession, I have had occasion to be in touch with many from that distant past. That, too, has brought feelings, compromises, hurts, and sweet memories to the surface. It's interesting that in our educational system, the culture in which we are brought up, does not prepare us to cherish the relationships that form and anchor our lives.
We are connected whether we want to be or mean to be. Associations, working partnerships, even feuds and missteps all form us and, at this moment at least, seem to be of value and honor.
So yes, I am going to bring out that chestnut of a poem that is MY RITUAL of respect for those in my life, currently present and those that have moved on ...
A RITUAL TO READ TO EACH OTHER
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact .
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe— should be clear:
the darkness around us is deep.
— William Stafford
I have taken on the responsibility of discreetly sharing the sadness with some of our associates. The hard part is that I have not been able to get away; the great part is I, too, have been able to partake of some of the love and wisdom brought on by our mutual sadness and share in a truly communal grief.
One friend astutely wrote:
When I heard about P’s and J's turns for the worse (J's doing much better) at the beginning of 2013, I fell to pieces. I wished I could have swapped places with each of them, to spare them. They were so much more deserving of life than I. I spent that year (like Townes Van Zandt) waiting around to die. It dinna 'apen.
So maybe I have a rough idea of how you feel. I don't what to do. I couldn't help them, I couldn't swap places and I couldn't go on ahead to make things ready for my "liege lord."
All I could do was wait for the end and feel the loss.
Hemingway said the most inane thing when some big writer died, "Men are dying who have never died before." Stupid, but on an emotional level I understand what he meant. These are "our" deaths, our great people, our friends who are dying. This pain is ours, is ancient and unrelenting.
I wish him the best in his journey.
I wish you the best in yours.
Love is never enough, but it's all there is.