For a friend

I know not how to make my voice say

That my heart cries for you today,

And I know not how to comfort thee

With much more than an earnest plea;

Today I ask all angels in the sky

To turn each gasp and every cry

Into beds of roses for her to sleep,

And may your soul learn not to weep

For we’re all but visitors doing time

Till those promised bells begin to chime.

We are so near the sweet departed

Who want us not so broken-hearted;

Despite the void and all the pain,

Remember not these days of rain

But count the days of sunny splendor

Given to us by ones so tender.

It is not far, this new hello

Though hours seem to pass so slow,

We’ll see their bright faces again

So keep in mind that until then

If your strength begins to sway

I am only a few steps away.

Starved ears

There are sounds you can’t forget. The putter patter of rain drops on the roof, the high-pitched whistle of the tea kettle, the sleepy voice of your mother when she says “good morning” to you… we memorize sounds, define our lives around them, and when one stops being part of our routine, it’s like a breach in our cocoon, a part of this intricate safety net we spent our existence building.

Around a month ago, my father was hit by a truck as he was crossing a street on foot. Thankfully, it was mostly his leg that was injured. I say thankfully bitterly, for if there’s one thing he likes, it’s walking. Since then, he’s been much less mobile, having to minimize activity so his wounds heal without complications. Although this little anecdote has nothing to do with sound, it also has everything to do with the matter in my case. Ever since I was a little girl, I’d know my dad had arrived home from the confident and somewhat loud tapping of his shoes in the building’s corridor; my room being situated conveniently, I was sure to hear the main entrance door’s loud bang and the decided stride of my father as he hastily approached our apartment. Since his unfortunate accident, no such sound has graced my ears, no comfort has come from the familiar sound I had built my evening routine around; instead, the light tap of a crutch sometimes resonates in that same corridor, a sound I have come to abhor.

We don’t realize the importance of a sound till it is gone, the comfort of an assured familiarity in noises we’ve grown up with, learnt to accept or even love. I long to hear my father’s fast-paced footsteps on gravel, on wooden floors, on coloured fallen leaves again, and I wholeheartedly wish to forget the ugly slowness of that horrid crutch’s tap.

Half sunken friendships

Over the years, we shed friends like a snake sheds its old skin, leaving behind what no longer suits our current state of being. We walk away and take with us memories, remnants of those other humans forever stitched onto us.

As friends, we learn intimate details about one another, whether personal or random, things like favourite colours, birthdays or allergies; we learn them out of necessity, out of duty and out of love,  however varying the degree of it is. We accumulate knowledge of these other entities, keep our expertise of them safe within, willfully forgetting how possible all of it might one day become useless or obsolete. Friendships end, it is a fact human nature forces us to forget each time we embark on a new shared adventure, and so does our knowledge of all things pertaining to our once close chosen relation; we pick people, and we also choose to let them go, whether willingly or reluctantly. We’re no longer updated with joyful news, little tidbits of their daily lives, changes big or small…we are the strangers we first started as…but with baggage too deeply engraved to be forgotten. “No, don’t put strawberries on the cake she can’t…actually, go ahead, never mind…”. “Ahhh it’ s today, I forgot to wish…upon a star”. Sometimes it slips our mind, their sudden absence, how their importance weighs less on our life and heart..or does it really? Is every relationship we’ve built and forsaken truly erased from our hearts as from our minds, or does it all remain deeply etched under newer, kinder, better constructed ones?

Things change, but we remain marked, stained with little specks of all the somebodies we once knew, forced to deny how present they once were, unable to forget they were…so very there.

The fruit of death

I haven’t posted in a week. The reason? Death. No, nobody close to me has died recently, I haven’t been grieving any particular loss, I’ve just been in deep contemplation of the idea of dying, the mourning process, and the aftermath. How does one live after death?

Cher asked “do you believe in life after love?”to which I always answer moodily, depending on when the song starts playing. However, do you believe in life after death? If so, how does one continue, and what scars does parting bestow on those still living? It is unarguably easy to die; once you’re gone you’re free, whether you’ve spent the last ten months in a hospital bed, or fell asleep to never wake up, when the light goes out it’s over, for you and whoever is left. I was five the first time I became aware of someone’s passing. I had been sitting with her a day earlier in her bed. She was attached to machines, yet when she saw me holding a pack of fresh figs, her favourite fruit, she sat up and peeled some for both of us. At 5 years old, you just don’t get it, the tubes and the blood bags…you’re just aware of the lingering smell hospitals are so known for – I hate that smell. The next day, I was in the stairway ready to find her room when they told me I wasn’t to see her anymore. Ever. I remember that staircase so well, the white banister, the hermetically closed window… you don’t forget the places where all of a sudden your life derails from its tranquil course. My grandmother also loved figs, she had a big tree in her garden and when we’d walk by it, she’d pick a few and share her tree’s bearings with me. When she passed, nobody told me; being in the middle of my exams, nobody wanted to distract me with the news I’m still struggling with 8 years later. Figs… we pick strange things to remember, strange things to hold onto, strange things to move on with… Whenever I eat figs I need silence, and until recently, I had never understood why, the reason I so naturally slipped into a meditative state every time I had any. As I watched a small video on death and how people continued after witnessing loved ones depart from their presence, it hit me: I haven’t moved on, I haven’t forgotten, I live with death every day and I smile. Not because they’re gone, but because through the simple act of peeling a fig and sensing its sweetness in silence, I am once again the little 5 year old with the two old ladies that marked my childhood so evidently.

Nostalgia is mourning the death of the past, it is lived through our senses; smells, sounds, textures, sights and tastes all hold our memories, patiently waiting to revive what we thought had left us forever. Maybe in the end we’re only memories, pacing through others’ minds, and when we’re not being remembered, we sleep, unaware of our short-lived existence having ended. I suppose death is not so frightening after all.

The dead can play

She’s in a coma, they said.

I rarely thought of her, the little old lady with a hole in her throat. Cancer had deprived her of her esophagus, her voice resembling the guttural sound effects that always amused me in movies. I saw her mostly when everyone was sad, crying, mourning, like a shadow haunting the already gloomy reunions that were funerals, but our relationship never evolved past that: hello, they’re gone, sigh.

Now she’s gone. I had promised myself this one I’d talk to more, get to know well, memorize her stories and immortalize on paper the way I didn’t her sister. I wanted to grasp one’s history, maybe to compensate for my past mistakes; we don’t care enough when it’s still time and then it’s too late. Life has a way of taking people away before we’ve molded a precise impression of their existence in our memory, before we truly understand their every breath should have mattered more.

She’s up there. Or maybe not. She was a feisty one I was told, dynamic and lively; hard to believe the tiny crumpled up human I had met was once the picture of health, some force to be reckoned with… and I’m sorry. I’m sorry I took my time as yours ran out. I’m sorry I cared too late. I’m sorry I don’t feel enough pain now you’re gone…and I’m sorry that doesn’t change a thing.

I always imagined the dead seated at a floating table just like the one in Mary Poppins, playing cards and laughing. They somehow all fit around it and it never seemed crowded; a place for everyone and a never-ending game…the way it should have been on Earth. Some Sinatra playing in the background, maybe even Sinatra himself – that’s if they allowed the little bastard in in the first place. This image of death appeals to me, a place where things happen the way they should have down here, peace and joy for all. I hope you’re at peace now little lady, dancing alongside Fred Astaire wondering how you suddenly understand English. I hope you feel young again, and that someday we’ll meet at that table, and finally… we’ll talk.