I cried and wailed for you--- bit my lips, shook my head, crouched and tied myself into fetal knots, but nothingóabsolutely nothingócan soothe this loss. I struggle for words but all mine end in platitudes. Iím devastatedÖ but that word means nothing compared to this experience.
I looked around your funeral and saw a horde of diminished livesÖ.so much sufferingÖ so many regretsÖ so many doubts. They cried about things theyíd said or things left unsaid. I saw confusionÖ. people gibbering on the edge of madness asking, ìwhy, why, why, why, why?î. I saw people whoíd remained close to you-- people whoíd drifted away. I saw, and felt, pain.
I saw people just like meócrying because your light is gone from our lives. This canít be realÖ the horror of your death is impossible to understand. Of all people, why you? And why your sweet Heather (who had your irresistible eyes and irrepressible spirit) Ö and why Benjamin (who had such a divine sweetness). This cannot be real because my mind can make no sense of it.
I cannot comprehend the finality of these events and cannot bear its consequences. I still hope to call you on the phone and tell you about my travelsÖ and hear the latest about your children, Jon, and our old friends. I want to do this, but I canít.
Thicht Naht Hahn wrote, ì A wave on the ocean has a beginning and an end, a birth and a death. But the wave is full of water. If a wave only sees its form, with its beginning and end, it will be afraid of birth and death. But if the wave sees that it is water, identifies itself with water, then it will be free. Each wave is born and is going to die, but the water is free from birth and death. So too are weî. I hope this is true.
But you are gone now and I have no hope. I donít believe that healing is possible. I donít believe your death can be accepted.
I have no hopeÖ and yet I search for it. I feel that healing is doomed and yet I pray for healing. I want to sink into despair and surrender but I fight for meaning instead; because I donít have to guess what you would say to usóI know what you would say because your life shouted it with thunderous clarityÖ you would tell us to live with the pain and live with the doubt, but live nonetheless. You would tell us to live with joy, with love. Youíd tell us to never surrender to despair. You would not equivocate in the face of tragedy. You never did.
I remember that you never gave into despair, never turned to cynicism, never embraced pessimism, never used pain as an excuse to harden. Your life leaves no ambiguity. We know how you lived, and we know what you would say.
I remember that your joy could not be suppressed and a thousand sorrows could not diminish it. You had a manic energy that buoyed everyone in your vicinityónone could resist or oppose you.
I remember you throwing water balloons from rooftops and grinning like an angel.
I remember you dancing like a dervish in a blue dress-- your green eyes flashing, your dress hem spinning wildly.
I remember your sunflower hat and rainbow high tops.
I remember you shooting a crossbow and dancing a jig when you hit your target.
I remember you holding snakes, feeding owls, rescuing possum.
I remember you hanging upside-down from a rappelling rope, laughing and grinning and scaring me witless.
I remember parties at Gilís when youíd crank Led Zeppelin and shake your golden hair- you bounced and shook the floorboards.
I remember the awe struck look in Charlesí eyes whenever he looked at you.
I remember the sadness you disguised with laughter.
I remember the sweetness of your smile when you discussed Jonathan.
I remember my own dark lurking presenceó your sad patience with my jealous rantingsóthe resignation in your voice, the frustration in your eyes.
I remember your late night sewing sessions at the villaÖ talking manicallyÖ listening with wide eyes.
I remember your irresistible energy. I remember your fierce hip checks during toli gamesÖ and the time you drug down Scott Ennis during a football match (he smiled sheepishly as we laughed).
I remember you screaming your lungs out at Rush concerts.
I remember that you grew wild gardens full of herbs.
I remember that you sawÖ you touchedÖ and you listened.
I remember that you were honest (though some called you ìtactlessî). You were forgiving (though some called you ìfoolishî). You were kind (though some called you ìsoftî). And you were optimistic (though some called you ìromanticî). You ignored the cynics.
I remember that you were never guarded, never smug, never cool. Your moves were not studied, your words were not rehearsed, your love was not demanding. You never tried to impress and thus you impressed everyone you encountered. In your presence we all became romantics. You made people better. You made me better.
You are gone now, but we are all thinking of you.
When I think of you my first thought is of sunflowers. You used to have a green floppy hat with a yellow sunflower on the front. You had a sunflower heart tooóbright, open, vibrant.
Maybe we should have filled the funeral home with sunflowers. For me it was nearly unbearable- the pain was too much. Yet my eyes continued to drift to the back cornerÖ to the cluster of bright balloons. I smiled despite the pain.
In our shock and horror we had to wail and cry and moan and weíll continue to do so for a long time. But maybe someday we can gather again- when we are able- and truly celebrate your life. Perhaps weíll wade in sunflowers and fill the room with balloons and wear floppy hats. Weíll let our dogs and children run and weíll let the sun shine on our hairÖ and weíll think of you and your beautiful smile. And weíll smile too.
I canít do that now, but I want to because I know itís what you would do. Maybe on that day weíll forgive the people who have wronged us. Maybe weíll be honest instead of tactful and warm instead of cool. Maybe weíll give without expectation. Maybe weíll love without trying to love and be good without trying to be good; and for that day weíll remember the child-like sweetness that most of us have forgotten. Weíll forget cynicism and abandon guile.
We will be like youófeisty and aliveÖ and weíll forget how weíre supposed to act and act as we always should.
I hope weíll give you the memorial that you truly deserveóthe one that, in our pain, we cannot give now. I hope weíll forget ourselves and be more like you, because your life is the only memorial that is good enough.
On that day, in the future, weíll remember you and forget our loss. And by remembering you we will also remember that our jobs donít matter, that our egos are a burden, that there are no rules and no commandments, and that there is no religion and no philosophy but love.
I hope weíll play games on that day and dance, because youíd like that too.
You are gone now, but I know that this is not goodbye. We will meet again; until then Iíll continue to think of sunflowers-- and remember you.