It occurs to me that so many times when we speak of people we speak in terms of “Life and Death”. The Birth and The Passing On. The Seedling Sprouted and the Withering of the Leaf. Whatever. It makes sense, if you think about it. We’re born, we live, we die. We come into lives, and we pass out of them like a candle flicker, and that’s that. And yes, we may, if we’re lucky, leave marks as the smoke trail off the flame may leave them on the walls or ceiling, the black trail that says “I Was Here” that could be scrubbed off and forgotten like so many other things.
And given the world, and things as they are right now in the news? It makes sense. My life could be snuffed out in a second, same as yours. And there, and so, and the candle dies, with the streaks slowly fading over time.
I can’t buy that theory anymore.
So, please. Bear with. This may be long and tangential.
My new favorite hangout on my own is a place called Banter in Forest Hills, Queens. (For those of you who know me well, you’ll understand immediately why, given the name.) Someone I’m beginning to know and I were out front, and smoking, as we are sometimes wont to do. (Me? Smoke? Save the speeches for now and let me finish). I don’t remember what we were talking about.
What I do remember is looking up, and seeing a tall, dark brown-haired, bone-dead weary looking woman clad in a dark brown coat. And as I followed the natural (well…my natural anyway) line of sight down…she had her right arm tight, but not TOO tight, just tight enough…around a little gray figure. And that Little Gray Figure coalesced into the form of a little boy, with a head as bald as a billiard ball covered in a gray hoodie, probably…no older than nine at best, but with a face that had lived a thousand lifetimes and was going to live a thousand more, if he survived his sickness.
And we both watched them pass, and the love and hope that they clung to each other with…and I said, quietly, but very clearly – “This is why I do what I do.”
And I meant Every.Single. Word.
And then, this week, one of my closest friends in the Universe suffered the loss of someone, who, for all intents and purposes, was her Sensei.
I have two prayers that speak to me.
(What? YOU? Yeah. Me.)
The last line of the one that will forever bring me to my knees is “And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”
In the original, St. Francis of Assisi was talking about Heaven. (Pretty certain, anyway.)
In my interpretation, it’s about Memory.
And memories can be very, very hard to deal with. What I admire about my friend is what she remembered…the Good…the teachings she received, how she integrated them into her life.
Death after Life is regular old life, for those who remain. We walk on, heads held high, or we walk on, zombie-like. It’s about memory.
And nine times out of ten, we who walk as zombies are only really remembering our own pain, and nothing else.
I…have a hard time with the Good. And Memory. But I am learning.
Thank you, Sensei.
And Doc? I know I only met you once, but this is for you. May you watch over all whose lives you’ve touched. Blessed Be, sir.