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A Ring

January 21, 2019

A friend of mine, Al, died last Saturday. He is the first person to die who I knew well and was not from my parents’ generation, bringing the idea nearer. I think he was ten years older than my friend who married him.

My friend, Miriam, met him on the day after she turned thirty. I remember this because her father, a Lutheran pastor, had called her up on her birthday and asked her how it felt to be an “old maid” and the closest I’ve ever come to believing in a god is the kind of karmic delight Ron and I felt when she went to church the next day and met Al. We were sharing a house then, the three of us, and when Al and Miriam moved to California she gave us custody of her beloved cats, who were also beloved to us.

img_1731We visited a few times, in California and then when Al and Miriam moved to Colorado, and they came out to the beach in South Carolina with us a couple of times, and to our tea and poetry readings when we had them. The last time I visited was last summer, in Colorado. We walked around the Cheyenne Mountain zoo one day and another day Al and I drove up Pike’s Peak, with him telling me around each curve where he used to judge various kinds of races going up the mountain.

I loved Al for the same reason I loved Ron’s grandmother as soon as I met her, because it was clear that here was a person who loved the person we both loved really hard. And then I got to like him, too. He was smart and curious and kind, and he liked to sing. He talked to me about things no one else talked to me about much. Even theology, occasionally–I wasn’t as prickly about it with him as with other people, since he would pick it apart to see how it worked.

I thought of Al when I read this poem, about what we know, and what we can’t know but still long to hear about from those who have had to go on before.

A Ring
W.S. Merwin

At this moment
this earth which for all we know

is the only place in the vault of darkness
with life on it is wound in a fine veil

of whispered voices groping the frayed waves
of absence they keep flaring up

out of hope entwined with its opposite
to wander in ignorance as we do

when we look for what we have lost
one moment touching the earth and the next

straying far out past the orbits and webs
and the static of knowledge they go on

without being able to tell whether
they are addressing the past or the future

or knowing there they are heard these words
of the living talking to the dead.

img_1769Al did not go gentle into that good night. But he did go, and so he has made that real to me the way he’s always led the way, pointing and striding on ahead, resolute, determined.

 

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2019 4:22 pm

    It’s tough to lose someone you love. I’m sorry for your loss.

    • January 21, 2019 4:51 pm

      Thanks. It is my loss, and yet I think my impetus for writing this was to give those who are more devastated than I am by it an outside view of the loss, one that could articulate a little bit of what has been lost because I wasn’t as close.

  2. January 21, 2019 5:22 pm

    It’s never easy, and it’s always permanent, and we humans have such a hard time adjusting. My deepest sympathy to you, and your friend Miriam and their families.

    We’ve moved into a retirement community, and almost everyone here is older than we are, many because they moved too late, some because they’ve been here since 2000 when it opened, and what you talk about will be a feature of our life, but it is a very happy place, and we will be enriched and enlightened by those we are now living with. As long as any of us can be.

    • January 22, 2019 9:09 am

      Enriched and enlightened, yes, a good way to look at it.

  3. Susan permalink
    January 21, 2019 6:08 pm

    What a beautiful elegy for Al, totally appropriate, loving and knowing his essence. Thanks for sharing.

  4. January 22, 2019 3:16 am

    Lovely post Jeanne and I’m sure Miriam will love your beautiful thoughts.

  5. January 22, 2019 11:41 am

    It’s always so difficult when someone you love dies. It’s so permanent 😦

  6. January 22, 2019 12:38 pm

    It is very hard when someone you know well and have grown with dies. The Bears and I are thinking of you and Miriam.

  7. January 22, 2019 7:12 pm

    I’m sorry, Jeanne. A beautiful tribute and a beautiful poem. Thanks for sharing your memories of Al with us. He sounds like he was a lovely fellow.

  8. January 22, 2019 9:24 pm

    I’m sorry for your loss. This was a lovely post and tribute, I appreciate the chance to get to know him and Miriam a little bit better through it.

  9. Miriam Glock permalink
    January 23, 2019 10:43 am

    Thanks, Jeanne. This is very beautiful.  

  10. January 25, 2019 8:42 pm

    I’m so sorry, Jeanne.

  11. January 27, 2019 8:17 pm

    So sad! It’s great that they found each other and had their time together.

  12. January 27, 2019 8:32 pm

    Oh, Jeanne, I’m so terribly sorry to hear this. He sounds wonderful.

  13. January 30, 2019 7:23 pm

    So very sorry Jeanne. Al sounds like a great guy who will be greatly missed by many. Big hugs.

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