It was an informal service in a winery, on a gray and foggy Friday. After all the ice of the prior week the parking lot was sodden and puddled. My shoes were soaked by the time I got to the entrance after parking the car, and an hour later the seam with the sole split. A dispirited day.
Many of the photographs taken over the years of David's life, many that I recognized, had been enlarged to poster size and ringed the meeting room. Someone had taken great care to exhibit his accomplishments: his art, wood and iron working, images of good times with friends. He was an accomplished athlete, and his uniforms from the various sports he played were hung.
I'd wondered to myself, when the roads were frozen and I couldn't get there, if the community was taking care of Greg and Toni. Ah, but they were. If my friends could not have their son back, then the town strove to give them the next best...a soft place to fall. Local restaurants donated the food for the memorial. Neighbors set up the displays, hung the posters, prepared and set out the food. Members of David's posse were like 4 guardian angels. One of them facilitated the service, soliciting stories and making sure any one who wanted to speak received the microphone. They were so tender to Greg and Toni, and to each other.
There were at least 200 people there. Former teachers, parents of friends, and many, many friends.
He was such a beautiful young man, and so loved. How I wish we could have been celebrating his marriage instead. The gauze between a wedding and a funeral seems so flimsy.
A meditation on planet grief:
In our space ship we have many destinations, and some we want to avoid at all costs. We give a wide berth to black holes, certain asteroids, comets. And sometimes, we find ourselves caught in a gravitational field we are not strong enough to escape, and we're inexorably pulled. We crash. The worst we've feared has happened, and we're broken on planet grief. The laws of physics that govern the very movements of our bodies, the cement-thick atmosphere we breathe, crush us and we gasp, nearly wishing we'd not survived the impact. We sink, deeply below the surface and we say goodbye to the people we once were.
The miracle is, we are still alive, and in searing pain, but oddly, there is comfort to be found here too. There is kindness here, and even terrible beauty and joy. In our deepest anguish, there are moments of tender solace in the gaze of someone who's been there, in a moment of humor that can unexpectedly lift the spirits. Loss transports us to a world where we would never go if we could choose. We're chewed and swallowed by it and perhaps some of the anguish is in exchanging our old context, our former lives, for our new. Perhaps this is the purpose of a funeral, or memorial. When done ideally, it sets the precedent--to demonstrate that this new world cuts like knives, and yet beauty and love can be found, and maybe can get us through. In days of despair we lose sight of this, but sometimes we have glimpses of hope.
I thought some more about my doubts about intimacy with my friends, not just Greg and Toni, but Marti, Mindy, Kathy. I'd tried to locate the feeling inside of love for them and felt dismay that the 'feeling' was elusive. I understand now it's because there's a difference between love which is the drawing-toward and love that is the already-entwined. The tangible feeling of attraction is merely sensing the pull of another's gravitational field. Once there, we live on this planet with love a background force...everything we do is in relation to it but we often don't experience it as a force outside of ourselves. I was trying to locate the 'attraction' feeling. My friends and I are 30 years beyond that.
There is comfort in that conclusion.
And so I will incline my love toward Greg, Toni, and their daughter.