Requiem

requiem
On the occasion of my dear friend Jamie’s death:

I last spoke with Jamie nine days before he left us. In that typical rambling conversation, I confessed that I had grown weary anticipating his departure, and had simply stopped doing it. “There will be ample time,” I respectfully explained, “to grieve after you’ve gone. I’d rather celebrate your presence while you’re here.”

“I wish you would,” he replied. “I’m tied of anticipating it myself.”

There! That got said.

Now I find myself challenged to recognize that he’s gone. I’d long wondered what I would do with my morning missives once this correspondent’s receiver disappeared. Would I continue to find good reason to crawl out of bed and take to the keyboard, and what of the result? Whom would I write for? Would these become mourning missives instead?

I could see the question going either way. I might continue to celebrate life or resent death, but I doubted I could stop writing. The habit seems in me by now. My self esteem depends upon pushing or nudging or carving something out of myself every morning; more necessary than breakfast, far more essential than sleeping in. I would continue the siphon I’d started so long before, such a very short time before.


The most curious property of the writer’s peculiar habit might be that nobody’s ever there watching, listening at the moment of conception. That always occurs in a secure location far removed from the one receiving and interpreting the result. The writer never requests permission or needs the consent of the receiver, but imagines their future presence instead. At best, this necessarily amounts to self-deception. At worst, pure delusion. Do I now enter the purely delusional stage, writing to my dearly departed?

Jamie was never the sole recipient of these scribblings, for The Lovely Maren (Jamie’s wife) read them to him each afternoon, and was also a grateful and appreciative addressee. I also bcc:ed myself and The Muse, and often we’d share some words about whatever found itself into that day’s confessional, for they often proved a catalyst for both of us better understanding something otherwise mysterious between us. These were not usually just chatty, solipsistic exchanges between me, myself, and I, but rather portraits of how this world looks through my eyes, a sometimes awfully feeble attempt to relate, but an attempt.

I discovered much about my self and this world writing these things, so much that I rarely remembered my original purpose. In April, Jamie reported that his doctor had said he’d likely lose his voice. Later that week, The Lovely Maren let me know it had happened. I swore then that I would do my best to continue our rambling conversations, since I knew they would otherwise continue inside Jamie’s head without me. That’s what I did. That’s what I’ve done. It was a simple enough dedication, small discipline. I would be up writing anyway. The Muse insists I’m always better when I’m dedicated to something. My focus might just as well have been targeted at my friend.

There was no sacrifice involved in it. Jamie recovered his ability to speak, though for shorter periods than before. He retained his wry, sardonic, sometimes perverse sense of humor and we conspired to skewer all we could when we spoke. I told him early on that I would not beatify him just because he was ill and dying. He warmly agreed that he was clearly no angel (yet). Again, there would be time for sainthood after he was gone. He would remain all too human until, and so he did.

He never forgot to end our calls with the simplest declaration. “I love you,” he said, without affect. He was not yanking my chain, but simply stating the mutually obvious. None of us have grown so accustomed to sharing such intimacy that we are not at least somewhat moved receiving such, and I was never unmoved. These prompted me to similarly confess. It seemed necessary if only because it was so true. We merely exchanged the obvious, but that obvious never went unsaid between us.

I realized that my missives might have been a bit too confessional at times, but neither Jamie nor The Lovely Maren would countenance this admission, insisting that they held meaning for them. I tried several times to beg off inflicting my perspectives, but they insisted they were not unwanted intrusion, but a refreshing part of each day. Before or after supper, they would gather together to see what David was saying. I usually had a lot to say, for my initiating question had challenged me. What do I say to a dying man? I discovered that the answer was: anything, anything at all.

I need not even mention here what a sweet presence Jamie was to me. He insisted upon being appreciative and supportive and endlessly understanding. He scratched my sorry back plenty. Our conversations always simply continued, resuming where ever they’d left off.. They were never-ending. Neither of us could remember how they’d begun. I suspect they were infinite, though neither of us possessed a test for that property. We could only let infinity be.

I feel this morning as though I’m short about half an infinity. I see the dawn listlessly smearing the eastern horizon as if uncertain what to do with herself today. The colors seem numb. The palette familiar but the distinctions somehow blurred, as if she’s uncertain if she can manage one more. She might be weary, and I understand how she might be, after so very, very many repetitions of almost the same miracle over such an achingly long time. Something that seemed essential seems to be missing today. Even dawn could suffer a slight identity crisis in response.

Saturday, while visiting a farm market out in Shitkicker County, the farmer came up behind me. “You’ve got a hitchhiker,” he declared, reaching for the back of my shirt. A bright green mantis flew away from his grasp. A praying mantis, the ancient symbol of the spirit bridging this world and the next. I had been receiving heavy intimations over the prior days, so I hardly felt surprised to find a mantis dogging me. Even had the farmer not spotted him, his presence was palpable, even for someone as natively insensitive as me. I didn’t feel haunted or fearful, though, but felt appreciative of his presence. The mantis is no boatman into the nether world, but a reminder that there are, indeed, other worlds and that bridges exist between them. This isn’t a horror show recognition, but a supremely comforting one. And to be graced with such a presence, a real and true blessing.

The Muse and I were walking across the Clear Creek footbridge when we learned of Jamie’s graceful passing. Time stopped there with a sharp intake of remarkably insubstantial air. A world ceased, and we lingered along the railing overlooking the swift green water below. I fumbled for my glasses, feeling the need to share the sorry news. I cowered creekside to peck out the mourning on my suddenly rather stupid smart phone. That obligation fulfilled, we numbly strolled through throngs of soggy-shoed tubers heading upstream to wade in for another downstream run. We watched fat people hang up in the shallows and college boys capsize over the small waterfall, and one frantic solitary fly fisherman casting between the buoyant revelers to snag a single small trout, who quickly flopped himself free.

Back home, I began the three day process for making a fine pot of Italian Gravy, browning off the beef neck bone and the fatty pork roast for braising with finely chopped carrot, spring onion, and mushrooms. That mess would smell up the place until after The Muse went to bed leaving me up to putter around and wonder whether the sun would consent to come up again this morning.

©2015 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









blog comments powered by Disqus