Thursday, September 27, 2012

Early Eulogy

"If people are going to say nice things about me I want to hear it. So I had a living funeral," Morrie Schwartz told Mitch Albom on a Tuesday. So now it suddenly strikes me, which day would be more right than another to tell someone what you think of them? Do we need wait until they're dead? And of all people I know the one I speak most often with about being ready for The End, of an appreciation for The Now, of enjoying the now, yet still being ready to let go, now, is my old friend, The Man.

The Man is twelve years my senior. He has never failed to impress me, to inspire me, to encourage me, to support me. Yes, there are times when he might have interfered and saved me from myself, but in his wisdom he knew I had to run some of my course alone, especially the forks in the road I chose in his absence, without his consultation. And in these years of our friendship, over 30 years now, we have coursed the globe, divined the heavens, plumbed the fathoms, and chewed the fat. Shooting the breeze never came lightly; we were instinctually too analytical merely to be mouthing words.

The Man is a consummate listener. He will recall the details, forgive the elisions, hear what you mean instead of what you say, and ask for more at all the right moments. No sense of judgment attends his listening, no sense of curtailment, but he will redirect you if the thread of sentences merits it, if the meaning needs more matter. Even in his narrative will he seek to include you, as in "as you know", or if applicable, "you of course have been there, seen it, mentioned it before," etc. This is a man who is instinctually empathetic. Friends flock to him. People phone him. People write. He has a cadre of companions as diverse as bumps on a log, each full of warts and foibles and interests and complexities, but each with a life that The Man is prepared to examine; his interest in others is a paramount modus operandi for him. People like to tell him their stories.

The raven speaks. But it really was a crow. As I began typing this essay I was in the passenger seat of my car in the parking lot in front of Pier One, my wife on a search for stuff to help us nest. The size of the crow heading straight at my face first got my notice, but it landed on the slope of the hood and began scrabbling toward me. Twice. The first awkward flutter and slip did not deter it, and the entirely black creature, all sharp beaked and rake clawed took off with a flap but landed again, and unerringly made straight toward me. Beady eyed. Something stuck on the wiper blade? But then it suddenly lifted off in a black flap and skrawked away. What do you make of that? What omen could it be? Nevermore, quoth the raven. Say? At which point will my friend be nevermore?

Thing is, the measure of a man is in the moment. Now. I can relate The Man's history, tell you exactly who he is, but the point of this missive is to reach out to him, and to you, with the immediacy of the moment. When I hear The Man's voice on the phone, or in person, or even when I receive some email from him, I know a sense of love. "What's your sense of it? Of things? Of him? Of her? What's your sense?" is my friend's favorite question. And in the moment of my seeing the crow, big, black, menacing, surprising, doing what it does without meaning anything personally toward me at all, I am struck by the fact that as much as anything or anyone ever effects us, it is our own apprehension of the moment by moment, like mine of The Man, that counts. We react, or we respond. The Man always chooses the latter. His life will resonate with me, as long as I'm alive. Mayhap, so will that crow!

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