Sometimes people leave us before we properly get to know them. Such was the case this week. Sitting through fellow hospice choir member Alan Parker's memorial service was, in a way, like an extended family reunion; the stories, the sense of connectivity like the knowledge of a shared ancestor. This man was part of my "tribe" - and many others - but because our time together was spent making music for others, he was still like a distant relative to me. I knew I loved him, as I love everyone in that wonderful group, but the personal bond was still forging. We were united by something bigger, something outside of ourselves, and hadn't yet spent more than a few moments actually conversing about our own lives. I figured we'd get around to it eventually, but...not now, not on this plane.
I am unbearably sad about that.
As a minister, Alan would have been the first to offer consolation, to point out what a party it will be when we finally meet again. My head knows this, and my heart believes it too, but to process it all I have to walk through the flames of grief, not around them. To mourn my way to the other side. And so, I share here the poem I wrote on the day he died, a day that felt longer than any I can ever remember. A dark night of the soul kind of day.
And maybe, knowing that grief for not only what we've lost, but what we will miss out on can be felt just as intensely, we will have more compassion for those around us who grieve.
Today is a gift -
I am trying so desperately to remember that -
as precious and ephemeral as a pleasant dream,
not the slow, tortured tearing of a band-aide that it feels like right now.
The wounding? - that was sudden.
A blinding flash,
exquisite in its intensity,
and hopefully - blessedly - soon over:
Such a pretty sounding word,
an oh-so-lovely descriptor for a vile, desecrating thief.
Don't you dare take our friend! - I want to scream -
our brother, our any-number-of-other monikers
that cannot fully describe ol' "Black Socks'" bounce and sparkle,
his self-amused voice ringing in my ears,
his tears unchecked against ruddy cheeks
from that last moving melody,
imprinted forever on my soul,
along with the friendly bear hugs I'll continue to crave - Give him back!
But death never listens.
I'd hardly gotten to know him,
was still acclimating to his irreverent sense of humor and goofy camp songs,
still learning to lower my guard
and grow into the person he already saw me as
in his all-accepting way.
There are still songs we should have learned together...
Too soon I will be asked to help celebrate Alan's life,
to sing his praises and his passage,
and to find that place within me where I can think of him joyfully elsewhere.
But, today it is still just so unfair.
Today, stretched by grief and punctuated with abbreviated memories,
is for mourning my loss.
Today is a gift.
And yet... not all gifts are welcome.