Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Wednesday, December 1

San Francisco airport, 8AM. A break today from the weighty responsibilities of politics, Bush. For me, at least. I see you're up there in Canada, mending fences. I did pick up my NY Times and noted from the headline that your Ridge had handed in his resignation. Does this mean no more color-coding? And I note that you "declined" an offer to speak to the Canadian parliament--where heckling is not unusual. So when do you plan to risk exposure to the nasty world of those who dare to disagree with you...? Just a question, Bush.

But really my mind is still on Sam. I want to tell you about Sam, and the family and friends who gathered last night to see him on his way. These words came as I sat and gazed at the small altar, waiting for the memorial service to begin:

Well, Sam, they had you
finally in a small wooden box
surrounded by white flower
displays. Your framed photo
gazed out at us with a half
serious smile. To your left
the Stars and Stripes, folded
in a neat triangle--reminder
of your service to the country.
A parachuter? Sam, I never
knew this, or perhaps did,
and had forgotten. Hard,
though, to imagine you,
jumping from an airplane!
To your right, your book
of Tamura Ryuichi's poems,
the work of years, a work
of true devotion to what
you thought was beautiful
and true, what you deemed
your work must be, to share
with the rest of us. White
candles flicker on either side,
reminders of the fragility
of your lost life, and ours.
The thin and twisting wisp
of smoke from an incense
stick, rising past your photo,
past the flowers, fragrant.
And, after all our words
of regret, after the words
of admiration, deep respect
and, yes, Sam, genuine love,
after everything we could
think to say in solace to
each other and ourselves,
then came the slow chant
of the Buddhist sutra, Okyo
and Oshoko, rising, sad
and reverent, as we offered
incense at the altar. Sam,
my friend, I do remember
your dislike of the word
God, but now you're gone
I dare to say it to you
anyway: God speed you
on your journey, wherever
your spirit takes you from
this day.

Afterwards, at a small dinner at Sam and Yumiko's, I told the story of my nightmare journey north to the memorial service: of realizing, en route to the Los Angeles airport, that I'd left the contact information for my rendezvous at San Francisco airport at home; of losing my wallet between the remote parking lot at LAX and the Alaska Airlines electronic check-in point--no money, no credit card, no photo ID for Security; of the interminable wait--already short of time--for the bus to return to the remote lot in hopes of finding my wallet turned in to the office there; of the miraculous discovery by one of the passengers, once the bus finally came and was headed back to the parking lot, of my lost wallet under his seat; of the rush back to Alaska Airlines, and the rejection of my e-ticket information by the electronic system; of waiting in line--still less time now; growing panic--to see an agent, and of his pointing out the fine print on the ticket, that I should check in for this Alaska Airlines flight at the American Airlines terminal (of course!); of the mad dash half-way round LAX to American Airlines, and the rejection of my e-ticket information by their electronic check-in system; of the renewed wait in line for an American Airlines agent--only to be told, on reaching the counter, that I was "too late" to check in for the flight. At which point, my patience snapped. I made it clear that my good friend had died, and that I did not intend to miss his memorial as a result of some idiotic bureaucratic foul-up.

Well, the agent finally relented. He gave me "two minutes", and I ran.

I caught the flight. You will have guessed by now, Bush, that my unconscious mind was in denial. It did not want to accept the reality of my friend's death, and did everything it could think of to sabotage my efforts to get to his memorial. Interesting, no? The power of the unconscious mind…

Still, I would not have missed the memorial for anything. A sad and joyous event, which brought together friends and family, some of whom I had not seen in many years, some of whom I had known through Sam and Yumiko, but never met. It was a joy, particularly, to see their beautiful daughter, Junko, now a young woman, last seen when she was a little girl; and her husband, Igor, whom I met for the first time. We parted early this morning with both joy and sadness in our hearts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good morning Peter from Oliver,

Both Deirdre and I were deeply moved by Sam's memorial in no small part due to the expression of the poetry that was Sam. Why do we learn to love our friends even more after they pass? We are concerned about Yumiko. We are the ones who are here for her and she is really alone now. I'll be calling her later. to check in on her. Keep blogging and I'll pass your link around, Oliver