5th and ramble

In my memory now, it’s been death times, times 5.  First thing last year, she trained me up as a public defender and passed away.  breast cancer.  daughter of 5.  we descended like a mad tea party upon the circle, watching tearfully as the children released ladybugs.  i wanted to touch one, to feel it being alive in my hand.  the dots are fantastical.  i thought, if i just close my palm, i could crush it.

a hero died, only about 5 years older than me, he had several kids too, massive heart attack.  it must have sounded like a bell when it went off.  pure and clear, like his spirit.  throngs of people i neither know or trust, but with whom i share a fighting spirit, camradarie, and even grief — they memorialized him with verse, slideshows, auditoriums filled with labor songs.

the last one, only a few of us really ever understood, he was the big guy.  met him at a party, and he had just finished helping me out.  we were the most alike.  he had sad eyes and a quietness.  i guess that’s what happens when you keep on going inward, cuz’ the world ain’t never letting you out.  end of the year, but life rolls on, so does death.  he was gay when he killed himself, and maybe he was killed because he was gay.  i’ll never know.  life, so unstable, didn’t provide him enough ground to stand on, although i guess in a fucked up way, in the end it did.

and this time it was a dear friend’s father.  the way it was supposed to be.  immigrant. american dream. big family. love. togetherness. crying. i saw a little girl try to get near his casket.  somebody reached out a hand when she was falling.  i remember walking sideways downhill. months later, i listened to their whole family sing.  they had angel voices which must have been carrying them through all the shit sadness, and they were tighter than a clan of bears.  they made me want to learn how to play guitar with one hand and swill a beer with the other.  they made me want to be pilipino, and to love like their father must’ve loved.

and tonight was the funeral for a friend’s papa.  the way he stood there, with his beard, and dignified brilliant blue shirt, and tears breaking up his voice — his papa died just a day and six years after my own dad passed away.  this friend and i aren’t close, not in any traditional sense, but i know he is loved, and i can’t help but love him too.  i remember when he leaned over at a party and told me about his family.  i could tell then that he wasn’t taking them for granted.  i wish i had possessed that kind of foresight.  my friend has the clear and unwavering sweetness that makes even the ugly of death on people’s shoulders genuine and transformative.  i think, in the end, death is a repurposing agent.  people don’t like to talk about it, but i have to give them that secret anyway.  you don’t just move on.  you are free, however difficult and sad that may be, to follow a path that was never completely there when you were defining yourself with your parents.  you are also not free, because you can never truly live this new life without them, it’s always the old one — you return to conversate with it.  and when you watch another person love, when you listen to the soft sounds of it, your ears fall off, and you see them with new eyes.

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