Friday, December 23, 2016

Preoccupation with Don Strong

Silent tears have been leaking from the corners of my eyes throughout the early morning hours as I awaken to the dismal prospect that my best friend may actually succumb to the painful grip of cancer destroying his body. The recognition of that possibility had eluded me as I sought to buoy his and my spirits, when fear arose in both of us. Not wanting to jinx the results with even thinking about a negative outcome I sought to focus on the elimination of the relentless pain that subsumed his consciousness and failed his physical capacities, always hoping for prolonged moments when it ceased, even for seconds.

He just called to let me know how he was doing, reaching out to make contact before leaving for the early morning surgery at the hospital. With a forced smile on my face and tears rolling down my eyes I face the reality that this might be the last time I speak to him. The deadening silence of a loved ones voice is the hardest thing we live with. It amazes me how people who are suffering the most are so quick to relieve you of your pain through humor or gestures of accommodation to soften the impact on you. The valiant soothing of the stress they know you must be going through too is one of the herculean gifts the frail and dying can muster to make it easier for you. Even if that person wasn't generous in their lifetimes somehow this generosity of spirit arises like steam on a wintry day melting away fears and calming the deep waters of loss.

The tragedy of the moment is further heightened by the thousands of miles we are separated by, in land and water and cultures, because I happen to be on the other side of the planet, trying to hold the hand of the voice that wakes me with a start each day. The fact that we have rarely been in one another's presence for years only intensifies the friendship, because it was not predicated on the things that most friends do together. Our memories of actual time together are few relatively but the hours on the phone seemed to fill in those gaps sufficiently for us. However, I promise to change that paradigm and visit with him in DC more often.

Becoming instant friends when meeting at Two Steps Down a popular restaurant and bar in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn in June of 1986, where we were neighbors for several years, we immediately took to making sure we connected each day to share the most useless information about our days. Changes in his career had him move to different states before finally settling in DC. When I said to him upon his move in 1989 that I suspected I would never hear from him again, he boldly retorted, "That's a damn lie!" And he was right.

Intense prayer and waiting will make up most of my day today however, as others note my preoccupation.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Quality of an Embrace

In the darkness of night, when sight is of little value, I reach over for an embrace that seems to await me...without hesitation or force and am engulfed in loving acceptance. An embrace that is not based on how good I look but how good I feel. Within this embrace the shores of security is reached that seemed a journey away, just a moment ago. It is not the size of the embrace or the heft of it but the sheer fact that it is reciprocal and without expectations.

 The value of an embrace goes by unnoticed in many cases because they are freely given by loved ones and friends as a beginning or closure to a rendezvous. Even then the quality of it can touch us deeply because each is embedded with years of trust. Nothing is more welcomed than a friends arms that says "I'm here for you."

My mother shared such an embrace. One that was spongey in its initial draw, that seemed to absorb me with its acceptance, that washed over me with an abiding love, that singularly said I belonged to that I achingly miss to this day.

 These are among the gifts of life we cherish but place no relative value on in the marketplace of commodities. They are the real physical needs that are eschewed in place of shiny objects that don't give back. We fill our days in pursuit of those things that will not embrace us in the dead of night nor soothe us at the break of day.

 If we made the embrace our goal, rather than riches, maybe we wouldn't have to fear an affront from loved ones, friends, strangers and peoples we don't know. Maybe a wall to separate us would crumble in the space of an embrace, where fear is replaced by love and happiness is truly a pursuit. I am not saying an embrace will bring world peace but it goes a long way toward bringing peace into your world.  Today maybe a good day to give and receive a hug.

TUNSTULL From Fashion to Fine Art 
A new book by Glenn Tunstull and Jelani Bandele