Monday, August 21, 2006

It's not that I feel Death is looming. It's more like He's darting dutifully and coincidentally around me. I'm not foolish. I know He is always weaving around, near everyone, but my proximity to some of His work this weekend was a little unsettling.

My neighbor died in her apartment on Friday afternoon. She was old and the cancer had returned to her body with a stubborn agenda. She fell ill again just two months ago, right before we moved in, and since that time her family and friends have flowed in and out in a celebratory and comforting vigil. It's all one could hope for when resting on death's bed. I learned the news of Joyce's death when I passed by her door on Friday evening. A family friend told me. I then entered the house to offer my condolences which was a little awkward because I've not known them long. It seemed the right thing to do. The apartment was dark, lit only by candles, and around the dining table sat six people listening to show tunes somberly. This music had to have been Joyce's favorite. I approached the tearful daughter,who is just younger than I and always superbly stylish in a Sienna Miller kind of way, and in the lighting she possibly thought I was someone else because she stood and hugged me tightly. However, I've had that effect on mourners before; I am a safe and strange vessel to shoulder a moment of their grief.

I am very sensitive -- without wanting to be -- to unseen energy whether dark or light. Joyce's apartment was without turmoil. It was stuffed with warmth, love. These people knew how to mourn. The show tunes only confirmed this. I said my well wishes for Joyce privately in my mind as I walked out of her apartment and no chills or fright trailed behind me.

Sunday was a different story. I went to the mall to pick up my contact lenses. With me was Mina and my mother-in-law; not Grandmtter, but Mama Luz, who is now also visiting from New York. I'll talk about her in another post. We left the mall and as we were about to enter the parking building from the outside, we saw police vehicles. A lot of them. And a forensics van. And a coroner's van. Everyone official was looking towards an alley created by two parking structures. We could see nothing. But there was an odd stillness to the scene. No bustling of officials. A stillness was trapped in that alley way. We took the elevator to the fifth level where my car was. And it turned out that my car was parked facing the alley way. I knew that if we looked over the wall, we could see what had happened.

She was lying on her back, as if sleeping. No contorted limbs. No splattered head, only her face quietly titled. Her feet were splayed to the side, her shoes just slipped off. She had her purse still in the crook of her elbow. Looking over the wall was like dunking my face in a heavy liquid that filled the entire alley way. I looked up and saw two security guards, two more parking levels up, looking down. If that is where she jumped, she jumped out far, I imagine in a calm swan dive and slowly flipped to land perfectly and flatly on her back. She was all beige. Her clothes, her skin, her purse, her shoes, her legs. She was a cream-colored beige against blue-black asphalt. Mina couldn't see anything, but Mama Luz was loud and gregarious enough to tip off anyone in the surrounding area. I talked to Mina as if the lady may have just hurt herself. That maybe she accidentally slipped. I told her to think good thoughts for the lady no matter what had happened. But I think Mina has inherited this ability to feel energy so we talked about it for another fifteen minutes on the ride home. Mama Luz, who is apparently educated by CSI and forensic shows, spewed her theories.

I think mostly of the loneliness that I felt looking over into the alley. It wasn't so much a perilous feeling, but deeply lonely and hopeless. I feel a tremendous sadness for the beige lady. Joyce had show tunes and groups of loving and roving people holding candlelight vigil. And the beige lady had yellow tape situated 100 yards away from her, keeping strangers at bay that coldly speculated and smoked and maybe talked about last night's baseball game. She's in my thoughts. I pray for her every time I unexpectedly conjure the image of her body. These prayers probably do nothing for her now, but they help me deal with this hollowed-out feeling from seeing a dead woman alone and devoid of everything even color.


andrea said...

almost couldn't breathe reading that. all that beige, all that sadness. I could see it clearly in my mind's eye-- I imagine it will be with you forever. I wonder what was going through her mind moments before...? did she feel the great weight of so much sadness and desperation? or did she feel free?

this is so heartbreaking.

Marigoldie said...

I believe there's so much goodness in holding her (or anyone) in your heart like that.

Deb R said...

The beige woman - how sad and upsetting. I think the prayers can't hurt. At least it's positive energy going out into the world and that's always good.

I'm glad your neighbor's passing seems to have been peaceful.

Irene said...

I don't know what to say. this is such a powerful post that stirs so many conflicted emotions in me. thanks for writing. thanks for sharing.

acumamakiki said...

This makes me teary, pooling my eyes as I write this. Such sadness and despair for the beige lady. I think your prayers do help her Madness, her soul hears your words and probably appreciates hearing them, someone listening to her you know?
We've been talking about energy in our home lately.

pixielyn said...

wow. That was one powerful post. You made me feel that moment. That heaviness, and you are so amazing to be able to share that.

To make me grateful for all that I have and to enjoy color to the maximum today. Celebrating vibrancy.

Julie said...

Raymond Carver is a poet favorite of mine. He died of cancer in 1987 at age 50. In what is largely credited as his last poem, called Late Fragment, he writes...

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Personally, I've always found great comfort in these words. I sometimes find myself repeating them offhandedly in moments where I feel particularly overwhelmed or caught up in whatever the drama of the moment may be.

The woman in beige, she may not have felt beloved on the earth, but she is beloved in death, through you and the process of naming her experience, of bearing witness. Who can say if that's enough? I believe it matters. Grace is found there.

Thank you as always for your thoughtful and world-wise blogging. I've been reading here for a long time - sorry it took me so long make an're one of my favorites!

Rebel Girl said...

That poem of Carver's is one his gravestone.

hey there madness -- big sigh - death has been busy these days, yes --

Ali la Loca said...

Sweet you, Madness. I will also pray for this woman in my own way since I'm not religious or a "prayer" in the tradtional sense.

I love the idea of your neighbor's family listening to show tunes - seems like the true sense of celebrating the life of a loved one who has passed.

LeS said...

Sometimes it seems as if you are a beacon in the night. You have made a difference here. You shared the beige lady with us and the trickling effect of our collective energies can help her be honored. And hopefully spirited away to her next experience. I hope someone she loved waited somewhere with their arms wide open.

Thank you.

amstar said...

I love that you wrote this. I love what Les said. open arms - yes.

madness rivera said...

Yes, open arms. You guys are all right. Because now, when I think of her body, it's lighter almost white. It's not so heavy. Thank you guys for helping her.

girl least likely to said...

such an amazing post--thank you for writing it.