As a child I was pretty accepting of the passing of souls, and even though I have tried to keep a spiritual perspective on this natural part of the cycle, as I get older and see the numbers increasing...the truth is, dealing with it really sucks--no eloquent words for this feeling. I say this purely out of the ego of the living--out of someone who can't quite wrap this experience up neatly for any others. I guess I deal through sharing and expressing-- keeping memories alive. Perhaps that is a deeper part of why all of my tattoos pay homage to the paradox of the infinite depth we can feel/experience combined with the impermanence of moments.
When someone leaves this world, I look at myself much more closely and nitpick at all the "shoulda, coulda, wouldas". Anyone who has lost someone knows the pain eventually turns into self-reflection and moments of "dammit I miss 'so and so'". I am lucky enough to know that all of the people who have gone are still very much alive in my heart, but I am sure you all know the desire to have one last moment with that person near--a last moment to shout "You rock my world" and such.
My typical conundrum is that for many, discussing death is a source of discomfort--usually because of having to look at one's own impermanence. That is not so much the case for me as I secretly try to maintain the life of the dead through my thoughts, artwork, memories, stories-- and it is rare that I share that with anyone....but it is through stories and sharing that people become infinite--that their energy is still palpable.
Those are lessons I have learned from two amazing people who are no longer in the physical bodies I knew them from. Two people whose lives were devoted to expressing, sharing, living OUT LOUD. So, here is me breaking out of my interior world to shout "YOU ROCK MY WORLD" to two people who would have been celebrating birthdays last month, who deserve to be remembered even if I can't give them that last hug and I am not one to attend wakes, here is to the promise of celebrating life.
Denise and I circa 2004.
(Can't find my external hard drive for other pictures of her in full force!)
Denise was my brother Chris's English teacher in high school. She was also inadvertently one of my inspirations to teach at the school I'm in. Her energy deeply affected my brother, and I attribute her influence as the turning point in my his life. She helped him see the magic he had and pushed him to share that. She made the wallflower blossom--and since Chris is one of my best friends in the universe, and one of the most beautiful souls--- I thank Denise for so much more than just my own amazing experience of her.
This is a woman whose heart was boundless--there was no limit to what she had to give to all who encountered her. She was the type of educator I still aspire to be-- she pushed others to reach their potential and make their visions reality. She believed in experiencing as much as possible and exuded a sense of dramatic glamour and passion in every aspect of her life. When I was a wee student teacher she passed her love of Shakespeare on to me when I was scared out of my wits to approach the subject at all--yet she pushed me and not only gave me the odd confidence to perform in front of my future bosses, but gave me the strength to accomplish anything I set my heart to. She was my mentor, my colleague, my friend, my vision of possibility. Her drive was unparalleled and I am glad to have been on the journey of her dreams for some time. She showed me the supreme nature of what it is to be a teacher (even outside of the classroom) and the power we can have to deeply affect others in ways we may never know in our short lifetimes. I am glad I always let you know.
Even though it has been close to three years since Joe passed, his memorial came the day after I learned of Denise's death. Both were sudden, untimely, hard to digest. I have a feeling I have blogged about Joe before, but probably at a time I was too private to specify people. Very few people know about the impact Joe had on my life. He was my friend at one of the most instrumental times in my development. He was like a brother who drifted in and out of reality inspiring people in the oddest corners of the world. In a "New York state of mind" Joey is a legend for his graffiti, his artwork, his music. I never cease to smile when remembering our escapades...living with total abandon...kicking our shoes off of the escalators in the towers, contemplating life by the harbor, naps on park benches, painting his nails...In my world, he was someone whose soul I understood--who was a friend when I needed it most--who shaped me in ways he could never know.
At Joe's recent memorial I was thrust back into a vortex of time/emotions. I was able to reconnect with the spirit of art he exuded and the heart that goes into every creation. I got to tell his parents what Joe meant to me-- how he believed in my path, encouraged me to succeed in college though it wasn't the pursuit many of our friends were choosing at first. He never let me feel like I sold myself out as an artist but insisted that I would ultimately give so much more as a teacher. He knew that the point is to share one's message-- in any pursuit.
Much love to everyone out there. For the sake of life, love, expression, remebrance, passion, and sharing. On this day, Dia de los Muertos, and all others I send my prayers and my heart-- the end of the physical life is not the end of one's affect on the living. To all I have and all I've lost, you are cherished.