"Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what's out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it." ~~Pema Chodron
Is that my life or what?!
Last full day at Chautauqua. Really felt totally settled in yesterday, but very content to have the experience on whatever terms it comes. The morning lectures have been spotty this year for me, but yesterday, with Erroll B. Davis, Superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools, spoke. Considering the theme of the week was cheating, he was an incredible speaker. Of course, I have the feeling that he is one of those people who could make a rendition of the phone book interesting. The afternoon lecture was Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director of the Islamic Society of North America. Again, a strong, compelling speaker who had thought provoking things to say. Then there was the symphony last night playing George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F and Beethoven’s Symphony in E-flat Major, the Eroica- conducted by Mei-Ann Chen with Ian Parker as soloist for the Gershwin. Chen is described as a dynamic young conductor -- an understatement to say the least. She was a joy to watch and she danced her orchestra through each piece. This was a long concert -- 2.5 hours and Julia sat through the entire thing, relatively quiet until the very end. Beethoven’s never seem to end! There was a moment during a quiet movement of the Beethoven when the orchestra was accompanied by the swish of a steady downpour of rain. We were all dry in the amphitheater with just the sound an the smell of fresh rain-air wafting through the open hall. It reminded me how much I have been music-less during the last two years, and how much I want to listen to music that I have chosen. Not to deny all that has come before, not at all, but to be the background and at times, the focus of this new life.
And that is what I continue to feel. New Life! Not that I have stopped thinking of David or miss him less -- maybe more in a less grief-stricken way -- but I am feeling like the infusion of life that I first felt on the eve of the second anniversary can now be trusted to be the norm and not a pleasant aberration.
Julia has had a good time too. She and her aide, Lizzy, have gone to Girls’ Club every morning and afternoon. She gave Lizzy a hard time yesterday and hit her, but apologized afterwards. No where near the behavior of a few years ago, but not to be tolerated or accepted. Other than that, Julia has been friendly, more than ever, with her fellow campers, and they have grown to like her as well. One day, Julia was reluctant to get into the lake to swim and her colleagues encouraged her. Julia, loving that sort of attention from her peers, jumped in! She is remembering a few names and wrote a very sweet friendship note to one little girl named Hillary. During the lunch break yesterday (from noon to 2) we went to the little library on campus (can’t believe that it was Thursday of this week, our second trip here and we are just visiting the library!). Julia headed straight for the kid’s section and finding a little boy there, took out a book and read him a story, explaining parts of the story that she thought he didn’t understand. Possibly remarkable behavior for any typically developing 11 year old and a marvel for my girl.
Julia is also enjoying having Lisa around. There is no question that I am her mother but the attention of another dear adult is so good for her. We have built a family -- far flung and with few blood ties, but strong and vibrant.
Which brings me right to Traci’s comment on the last entry. First, correction, we have gotten together with our China travel group 6 times since we’ve been home. Incredible that time has passed and that we make our getting together a priority year after year.
Traci said: “I think we did a terrible job the year that David died. Or, at least, I did. I'm so sorry about that. I think we were all lost on what to do or how to.....I guess just how to be. David was part of us and we miss him.” People, usually the most dear, have said some version of that to me over and over. At first, I had no words to ease their uncomfortable feelings. Now, I understand so much more. In one sense, we all did a terrible job right after David died with every encounter. How could we not? We were all reeling from an unexpected trauma. We were all lost, without moorings, without compass. Very recently, I realized that in our circles of loved ones, David was either the first or the first in a long time to die. We had our AIDS deaths in the late 80’s and 90’s which wiped some of the soul out of our circle of friends, and we lost Barry in 2001, a loss that had us pull together and love hard. Between and afterwards, we had life without such devastating loss. We grew complacent and were sure that we were all safe from loss. Not in our rational minds, not intellectually, of course, but in that more primitive part of our hearts and minds. We would go on forever.
All of this to say, that I am grateful for the dear family who gathered around me, and abided with me -- who visited or wrote, who talked about David or didn’t mention his name, who remembered in some physical way or who spent time thinking about him and us and our family changing. I think of appropriate after-death behavior and I realize that those who are the best at it are those who have lost the most. And so I wish the knowledge of best behavior on not one of my dear friends.
Now, time for this morning’s lecture!