In Requiem

Posted on 20 June 2010

I learned, in the past two weeks that two friends had died earlier in the year. And this past week, my sister-in-law – though she hasn’t lived with Rob’s brother for years – died of a heart attack. She would have been 60 in October.

Dear Hans Miguel was in his 80s, a long-time friend of Susan, who came to the village a number of times in the summer when all the fetes were happening and so we attended and danced. The man could dance and somehow in his arms, I could dance better than I ever have. And a few evenings, late late, we would look up at the stars and wonder why they are so much brighter here than anywhere else.

Tatu was in his twenties, a joyous outrageous young man, who did what he pleased and always made me smile. Gill and I met him one summer when he was working at Mark’s restaurant. Young women loved him because of his joy and his beauty. When Gill and I lived in Northern Ireland, he came for a visit (though he spoke little English) and cavorted down the streets of Belfast with his bright yellow shorts and a girl’s hairband, keeping his wild dark locks in check (the only thing he kept in check.) He fell off a roof in Paris around four months ago.

His friend Camilo sent me a note the other day: “It is sad what happened to Tatu but if you knew him, you know that he should be smiling and jumping of happiness as always, so life continues and we should enjoy it as he did!!!!”

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades…

I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth (Mary Oliver)

I did not know Carmel well. Her mother says that she was “a gentle, private person, not one who could or would share her worries.” Her sister calls her a care-giver: “Even as a small child, while cousin Max and I played cowboys and Indians, she would be dressed in her nurse outfit, ready to patch any cut or scrape… Yes, Carmel was a care-giver. The down side was she always took care of everyone else, while neglecting to take care of herself.”

The last time I saw Carmel was at her daughter Ayah’s wedding two years ago. We stood and talked a while. She was full of plans for the future. (This makes me especially sad.) I spoke to all of her children, reacquainting myself with the older two who I’d known only as children – both unusual and lovely – and chatted with Ayah who I’d met at the last two family weddings. (Unusual too – a tall statuesque beauty, smart as a whip, and a talented singer and writer.) I also had a conversation with her parents – two people I admire – who were kind to me years ago. (Mary worked as a librarian at Stanford and lent me rare books for an essay I was writing about mysticism.) She says “Parents are supposed to leave before their children, but Carmel had to go. We miss her dearly, but she left us her greatest gift, our grandchildren and they are wonderful.”

I’ve been thinking about these three all week. I am reminded that I or someone I love could disappear at any minute. I have felt sad, vulnerable, in tears.


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