Death, devotion and getting a grip

February 7th, 2015, 6pm

Hi. I have a dear friend, who I have known since the second grade. Years ago now, she threw out a hypothetical which was “if you could see what your hands looked like at your moment of death, would you look?”

I must add— she’s like a modern version of the Oracle of Delphi and I wonder why she’s not a multimillionaire trading stocks yet.

Back to the hands. There’s so much you could tell. Age? Wedding band? Gripping something? If so, what?

As the title suggests, this one’s about death— largely because I consider it’s not discussed enough but so much a part of living, and also because in the past six months, I’ve been processing the lives— and deaths, of three people I knew. One, my uncle, who had a six month cancer struggle. The second, a guy who left this earthly plane at 42 and at the hands of a sudden heart attack. The other, swallowed up by the sea. More on that later.

It’s the heart attack victim which gets me. 12 years ago today, St David’s Day for all you tidy Welsh, we staged my first play, a musical in which he was the lead. This is my enduring memory of him. A strong presence, a volatile guy who ended up creating a lot of enemies before his demise— which was saddening, but not surprising. I didn’t have as much to do with him (in recent years) so I didn’t love or hate him— but I respected him.

I visited his grave before returning to Europe, as I had been away during his funeral. I drove off with a flat tyre, and laughed, hoping it had been some kind of trademark strike from him. He once threatened to throw a chair at my father during a heated discussion, and my father wrote him a touching obituary. He was just that kinda guy.

The other fellow who passed, incidentally, was his brother-in-law. Two sisters, widowed in their 30s and 40s with two young kids. The. Heart. Breaks.

On this third death— a month after the play in fact, a freak wave sent the boat and his fishing party onto some rocks— near where this photo was taken. He saved someone, but in the end was lost to the Sea. The reason I add this, is that his widow, having known her for years— sent me a friend request the HOUR I was driving through this coastal town (which I do about once a year for an annual photo). I thought of the last line of Rumi’s Guesthouse. I thought of Lao Tzu (or is Dr Wayne Dyer) and the notion of “dying with our music still inside us”…

I feel, in a way, the one-time musical lead had died such a silent death.

Not necessarily because he still had work to do. Rather, because he had generated such hate when his talent and drive was so impactful. He had a strong song! And this world is now without it.

The devotion part? I would say this is my theme for the year. Be it Bhakti yoga, Christ or some other fabula/sjuzet combination… It’s a beautiful thing to witness, pain aside. Visiting the abbey near where I’m living, the intense images of Christ dying and the little candles flickering beneath reminded me of this, earlier this afternoon.

If I were to see my hands at the moment of death, I wouldn’t care for what age, what jewel (or lack thereof), rather— that I was gripping onto LIFE, and had been the entire time.

Ricardo and Christine said thanks.

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Tanja P

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