Friday, May 26, 2006

For C. and my friend

Over a week ago I found out that a friend's brother, C., had passed away from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident which may have been a hit-and-run. He was actually her brother-in-law, but had been in her life for at least half of it, so he was simply "brother" to her. After leaving Kevin Young's reading I
(Demoiselle Cranes in India, Photo Bryan Bland)

regretted not having gotten a book of his poems for them to read to C. in the hospital. But when I read her email I realized that C. was leaving this plane as I was listening to the last of Young's responses during the Q&A.

I read her email as the credits were rolling for the deeply affecting first installment of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs: Bleu. I was still sitting inside Kieslowski's arresting visual language of the internal movement of loss and grief. Death and life at times seem unknowable even when you're in the midst of the latter, or struggling with the absences wrought by the former. My neighbor who had an exhuberantly celebratory Mother's Day with the return of her son from Iraq, now works with renewed energy and creativity landscaping the family garden. I had seen her smile before his return, but had not seen her actual smile, if you know what I mean--she looks as if she has swallowed a breathtakingly gorgeous sky and it now illuminates her from within. Two women (one of whom, the sweet and singular G., I know) lost a son and another reunited with one that weekend, among many such mothers around the world. The thing about grief and loss is the only way through them is by embracing life, ones own, the uniqueness of the one that has been lost, and the aliveness that keeps breathing and moving around each of us.
(Installation of Thousand Cranes folded by Helen Palmer, British Origami Society)

As I thought about C.'s spirit making a transition, fragments of Nóirín Ní Riain's rendition of "Réidhchnoc Mná Duibhe"/"The Hill of the Black Women" began murmuring inside. The song starts with a liturgical organ passage, a somber motif repeats, almost a dirge, then a penny whistle enters and the organ fades to a quiet contrapuntal melody, grounding the soaring mournful voice of the whistle. A melancholic bird, yet buoyed on the wind, the sense of loss is palpable, but the melody of the whistle is a story of loss, of joy, of possibility, of the profound sensations of life and, to me, ultimately hopeful and grateful for life itself. This is the hope I have for my friend and the family, to journey through to that place of greater peace. You can listen here.

About the images of cranes in this entry: While C. was in the hospital his family began folding a thousand cranes in keeping with the Japanese legend that if you fold a thousand cranes the gods will grant your wish. Since his passing they've continued folding them for his spirit.

If you cannot access that music link you can hear a little of it (track 14) on the album Stór Amhrán/A Wealth of Songs.


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