How do you relate to something that isn’t there, but was? Two people close to me have died within the last 2 months after struggling mightily for life. Five years, ten years, outliving the red demons within for as long as they could possibly do. After WT died I saw him going up an airport escalator. Recognized him the way you recognize familiar shapes. But no, he died 5 days ago. He’s gone. And CM’s voice is as clear in my ear as the dish I just set down on the tiles, a distinctive voice, opinionated, never depressed, never daunted. In an emergency you’d want her on your rescue team.
Put them in a room together and these two would likely have no use for each other. Be unfriendly, censorious. Unless each knew the other was fighting end-stage cancer. Aren’t humans odd?
I’ve long had an image of deep love between people as tree roots that knit together deep in the ground. When one dies the duo is wrenched apart. I survived a “hundred-year” snowstorm in the mountains years ago. Big branches came smashing down, a scary not-safe sound. But the sound I still remember is when the massive oak behind us on the hill toppled from the weight of snow. The sound of those knotted roots being torn out of the earth was Thor enraged.
When our cat died unexpectedly I sobbed for three days. I have a photo of a camel keening over the body of her dead calf. We know of dogs who won’t leave their masters’ graves. It’s not only humankind that entangles with each other — it’s mammalkind as well.
Gaea is a word that gathers all of us together. Across species, across time. And for those individuals who have changed our personal trajectories and then gone on, there’s an ongoing bond. And gratitude.
As they would wish for us the living, l’chaim.