Tuesday, May 22, 2007

On Reading the Names of High School Friends Who Have Died...

such a strange feeling seeing the names of those we knew who have died already at the bottom of a list sent today by a high school friend...

i must be one of my jamesville-dewitt high school class who has been most distant from our 'community' having lived now in nepal since 1983 and out of the states since 1978.

still, it's such a painful feeling seeing the names of one's childhood's friends and acquaintances on a list of the deceased with years next to their names. the quantification of finality. each name full of a distant vitality. now deceased.

deceased... such a peculiar word. ceased. to have ceased. to be without breath. breathless in eternity. eased. eased into another reality. erased. erased from our current world. without form or consciousness. transformed. gone beyond. simply gone... without substance. beyond our familiar categories of either time or space. vanished. whoosh! the sound of the wind fluttering the prayer flags. the soundless sound. om.

even if i haven't seen or known the presence of these names in my life for over three decades, there's a momentary pause in reading their names, reciting the kaddish, offering an image in incense, swirling the memory of their faces around in my mind while recalling foggy, youthful impressions of our energetic lives together as willful teenagers in the oft-forgetten suburbs of dewitt, new york. i see some of them smile, or laugh or hurt w/ the innocence of high school love.

i think of the clarity by which death distinguishes our living presence from the memory of who we once were. a narrow, threatening, distrubing passage revealing a light filled empty joy that we will all join some day on the other side. a seeming final journey to the larger life from where we all came and shall almost effortlessly return.

but, in this human realm, close to the breath of life, the joys of parenthood & the blessings of the natural world around us, it seems a monastery of non-feeling, a winter chill on the warmth of life, a dark, mysterious cloud disturbing the sun.

i see these names, again, then remember our class photos with those awkward prepubescent smiles, slicked back hair and buttoned up shirts. not for the first time, i think that life is a tangled blue stream of super-8 film recording our joys and struggles, leaving us with the anchor of memory to honor the worlds we have all left behind.

behind. beyond. before. beneath. be true.

beguiling us with the pace at which the past becomes the present in our minds. how else to bring our childhood back to our adulthood?

sing the song of those who were once with us and have fled already to the skies in search of their spiritual abode above this world of dreams & shadow. shadow and dreams.

shanti shalom om!!!


ellenbergd said...

Poignant, Keith; thanks for the pause. I recall Poe's observation that "all that we see or seem is just a dream within a dream." Cherish each day, and I am so glad Dr. Gaspar sent the sledding photo around to celebrate a most special one.

Keith D. Leslie said...

E, thanks for checking in and adding a note. Yes, we are fortunate to be able to dream within the unique form this world takes. Gaspar continues to surprise & awaken us w/ his photos of college past. Miss you & your lovely family, as always, Keith