Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good-Bye, Friend(s)

Tuesday morning, the Matron received the difficult news that one of her favorite work colleagues, Edward, not Ed had died.

Grief, but she soldiered on to Stryker's first 8th grade conference, a report so sound it was a little salve to her day: straight A's, good leader, well-liked, responsible.

Way to go, darling! (okay if you read this Stryker your mother swears she barely mentions you anymore, per your request but she just could NOT restrain herself)

Conferences pushed the day into evening. By the time the van turned the corner toward home, it was 5:30 and the children? Actively -- no wait, vibrantly -- crabby. Your family has nothing on this one in the Bicker Department.

But when the lock turned and the front door opened, everything changed.

Jekyll was on the floor by his bed and all was not well. His body was strangely twisted, he was struggling to breath, and emitting tiny periodic yelps. Jekyll was dying. This time it was clear.

Everyone, including the intrepid Matron, immediately burst into tears. Stryker lifted the dear sweet darling back into his bed and the Matron wrapped him in a blanket. Scarlett and Merrick patted his head. Quick as a whip, the call was made to the vet; the Matron did not want this dog to suffer and she didn't know how long the death march would wind.

Just as she stepped out the front door, the dog bed and the dog in her arms, she knew. He had already left them. Easily, in his own bed, in her arms.

Sixteen and a half years is a long time to live with and love a being, human or canine. This was a long hard good-bye. He stayed in his bed until the children were asleep, wet-eyed and spent. John wrapped the loyal friend in a beautiful fabric purchased precisely for this moment.

Yesterday was the first time in sixteen and a half years that nobody fed Jekyll his morning nuggets. Noted and missed. The blanketed quiet body on the back porch? Strong presence.

So the Matron thought she would have a nice quiet time during her weekly office hours, catch up on grading and recompose. She would set aside her grief about Jekyll. Yes, she knew she would have to look at Edward's closed office door all day, but she steeled and prepared herself.

What she was not prepared for was yesterday's steady stream of unwitting students who stopped by to see Edward, knocking on his door or leaving a paper and often, popping a head in her office to inquire: "Where's Edward?"

She ended up telling half a dozen students that their beloved professor had died, handing out tissues, and sending three directly to the counseling center for therapy. In the midst of that fun, she walked a friend through a rough hour in an even rougher protracted divorce.

She was also not adequately prepared for the somber tone the entire institution had, the tears that she met in every office, the sense of being at a wake at work. And, as it should be. Edward had been a thirty year presence on campus. Everyone was weeping.

No papers were graded.

Last night, they buried Jekyll. Stryker poured Thurston's ashes over Jekyll's body and their shared resting place was marked by a purple flowering bush and a marble head stone. She'd post pictures but remember there's that gremlin who has taken over her computer and decided that she will never upload a picture again- at least until the tech guys take a look at the issue.

Yesterday? One long hard day.

But even though today is gray and grief has long tendrils, the Matron is grateful to be here. Death will take her too and sometimes, she needs to be reminded to be more attentive, appreciative: present. She'll live a little larger for the next few days, buoyed by spirit that extends beyond what she can see, the collective spirit of those gone before her -- the millions.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Firefly Life

Not long ago, the Matron posted about her sweet dear friend, colleague and office hall-mate, Eward not Ed. Tomorrow, she was to give Edward his private telephone tutorial.

Yesterday, Edward walked to campus with Elsie, as usual. The Matron worked from home yesterday, but she knows what Edward's days on campus are like: there is always a steady stream of students in and out of his office. He loves them! Later, he walked home and had a nice dinner with his wife, a glass of good red wine. Their 11-year old daughter tended to homework; she was his late in life child, the third baby his younger wife wanted--even after she turned forty.

Just before midnight, Edward died.

Just like that. He had a heart attack, suffered a few moments of pain and was gone.

Friends, who said this? When you die, it's not as if the actor has left the stage. The stage itself disappears. Every so often, the Matron is overcome -- overcome--by thinking about the millions and millions of people who have come and gone before her -- people whose minds (consciousness, that amazing creature!) constitute entire universes full of emotion, ideas, anxieties, determination and dreams. She herself is a hotbed of emotion, intellect, idea and dream. Multiply this expansive universe times eternity and there: humanity.

One more among us, gone, the stage torn down, a universe dissembled.

Our time here? Firefly life. We burn brightly and beautifully-- for just a few minutes.

"Wear scarlet! Tear the green lemons
off the tree! I don't want
to forget who I am, what has burned in me
and hang limp and clean, an empty dress -- "

Denise Levertov

Burn, burn, burn. Don't ask less of life while you still have it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Please, Pass Her the Book Instead!

While on her daily four mile constitutional with Satan's Familiar, the Matron heard this lovely story on public radio -- a tale of poets trying to get their Word, out. Local poet Todd Boss came up with the idea of animating poetry in an attempt to make the genre more popular.

Why, the Matron thought this a wonderful idea! Anything to get prose popping for more people (did she mention she's fond of alliteration?)! Sure, yes -- animated poetry. Poetry coming to the big screen, soon!

She could not wait to get home and see her first animated poem.

Uh. Maybe not so much.

Say it ain't so, Matron! But why did this feel, well, creepy?!! Excuse her while she heads on over to the bookshelf for some old-fashioned ink.

Speaking of which, anyone who has not read Kate Walbert's A Short History of Women is missing THE best book of the year. Perfect. Book.