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Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Memorial Service

Today was the memorial service for R. I was not planning on attending because it is Saturday. I do not drive on Saturday because I observe Shabbat. I felt conflicted about not being able to attend because I was friends with R., but more importantly because I knew that M. needed support. Nevertheless, I told M. I would not be able to attend. As I told her, my heart was in my chest because I knew it would hurt her. I also felt residual guilt because I missed her father’s funeral so many, many years ago. When M.’s father died, I was out of town and unreachable (this was before cell phones and constant access to anyone at anytime). By the time I returned home, the funeral had occurred. This has been a sore spot in our friendship – even though I had no way of knowing that he died and certainly would have been with her had I known. This was an opportunity to repair, in some small way, that particular rift. I told her I would go.

M. came to pick me up. B. was with her. I have not seen B. for at least 15 years.
B. was a close friend of R. and M.’s and was part of the circle of friends that spent time together. When we were in college in the early 1980's, there were groups of us whose relationships overlapped and touched each other starting with the core of M., S. and I. Our boyfriends, bandmates and other friends were brought together by the various parties, shows and other events at which we all congregated.

The memorial service was held on a cliff at Point Dume. M. asked me to drive her car. She quietly and intermittently cried during the ride. It was a beautiful day today – clear, warmer, pure. We ran into C. and G. in the parking lot and walked together to the deck overlooking the ocean where the service was to be held. While not terribly rigorous, the walk was about 1/3 of a mile uphill. G. has become quite frail (she is going to be 74 years old this year) and had to slowly ascend to the site. Our slow pace allowed us to appreciate the pelicans that majestically soared above us.

Several people spoke about R. B. commented on R.’s philosophical nature drawing on references to Nietzsche. He described R. as being "cultured," defining "cultured" as one who seeks to experience life fully, directly and with integrity versus a "philistine" who is only interested in immediate satisfaction. R. commented that his talks with R. always inspired him to live a more "cultured" life. I felt that way after just hearing B. talk about R.

One of R.’s brothers articulated the anger and hurt survivors of suicide feel. "You life was not yours to take away," he lamented. Everyone agreed that although R. was well loved, he did not know that he was well loved.

After the service, we went to a local restaurant where everyone drank and ate until quite late in the afternoon. I did not know R.’s family but clearly the four brothers, their significant others and children were hurt and angered by R.’s suicide. I thought they appeared close and loving, and it was not until later this evening that B. revealed to me that there are numerous dynamic rifts in the family – alliances and chasms – that were not apparent today.

I drove home because both M. and B. drank fairly heavily during the afternoon. On the way home, the three of us reminisced about our lives in the 1980's. We agreed that was a splendid time for us – perhaps the best time of our life when everything was exciting to us and subject to deep discussion. Our best memories of R. are from that time and his unexpected death gave us an opportunity to revisit that period. Our sense of loss exasperated by his death and the distance we have traveled from our youth.


Maven said...

it is beautiful and curious how we all try to merge our yiddishkeit into our lives, and our lives into our yiddishkeit.

Mrs. Joseph said...

maven -- sometimes it's a challenge.

M said...

Mrs. J - I come back to this post occasionally, especially when I am feeling really down about R. and need a good cry. But, I have to let you know that the "rift" in our relationship because you were out of town 26 years ago when my father died was more, I think, about my fury about his death than about my best friend being unreachable and absent from one of the most major events in my life.

I love you like a sister, even more, and revere you for your sensitivity, insights and creative expression. You are part of my heart, and it meant so much to me to have you with us at R.'s memorial. Those 1980's years were definitely the best years in so many ways because we were young and interested and motivated, discovering ourselves and trying to experience everything and anything new.

Just for the record: I forgive you for being in SF when I buried my father. You've always been there for me when I needed you and I feel so blessed that after 30-something years we are still close friends.

Thank you, Mrs. J. Thank you.