RANDOM ACTS OF
20 April 2003
Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place lately, but I don't see as many collab entries as
I used to. Collabs are great things--somebody gets an idea that s/he posts and then a
group of people write journal entries about that word, statement, photo or whatever. It's
a wonderful writing ploy when the creative part of the brain needs jogging.
I was looking through the few collabs that I check regularly. I've already done my
entry for On Display and decided to check out
Random Acts of Journaling.
This is a great collab because Elle gives you several different ideas at once words,
statements, photos and whatever. I read through the prompts and this book passage
My grandmother told me once that when you lose somebody you think you've lost the
whole world as well, but that's not the way things turn out in the end. Eventually, you
pick yourself up and look out the window, and once you do you see everything that was
there before the world ended is out there still. There are the same apple trees and the
same songbirds, and over our heads, the very same sky that shines like heaven, so far
above us we can never hope to reach such heights.
Blue Monday, Alice Hoffman, p. 283
I suppose it hits me hardest because the cycle of our year is shifting yet again. We've
made it through "holiday season" and "birthday season" and now we are
into "anniversary season." Today is the 4th anniversary of Paul's death and next
month we will pass the amazing seventh anniversary of David's (not that seven is
such an amazing anniversary; it's just that I can't believe he's been gone that long.)
We are no strangers to loss.
At the same time this morning I watched an amazing video. It's called "The Brink of
Summer's End," a documentary about the life--and death--of poet/author Paul Monette,
who died of AIDS in 1995.
No one in the gay community--or on the periphery of the gay community--is a stranger to
loss. Monette, whose partner Roger died in "the second wave" of AIDS deaths,
wrote an achingly beautiful tribute to Roger and an intimate glimpse into what it is like
to watch someone you love die ("Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir"). On every page
there is an energy, a relentless determination to wring the most from each moment of life,
and at the same time an unremitting pain in knowing how short their time together would
One wonders, at the end of such a relationship how the man could go on without the love
of his life. The same way that people look at us and wonder how you survive the loss of
You do, because you must. Your alternative is to die yourself, whether physically or
spiritually. And what a compounding of a tragedy that would be.
It is only in retrospect that one gains perspective. At the time, you put one foot in
front of the other. You make coffee, you check e-mail, you cry, and then you do the
dishes. You do it because you're alive and you must go on living. But as the reality of
the loss settles in, if you're lucky, you realize you have been given this amazing gift,
really. The gift of appreciation of each day. Appreciation for the lives you were able to
share for however long you could share them.
No, you don't "get over it," you don't "get on with your life,"
because you now have a new life. A life without the person you have lost. But the
possibilities.... the possibilities. The possibilities to savor that life. To incorporate
the spirit that was the person/people you loved and to make that spirit a part of you as
you go on, which you must do.
I remember my friend Michael telling me (somewhere in this journal I've discussed this
before) that he reached a point where he had buried so many people he loved who died of
AIDS that he wanted to shut down and never care about anybody again. I certainly
understand the temptation.
But then someone dragged him to a performance of The Last Session and he found
himself moved. He returned to see the show again and again and he began to make friends
with the amazing circle of people affected by the show, by Steve, by Jimmy. Now he finds
that his life has been enriched by the experience and realizes that it's too soon for him
to give up, that there is more love out there, there are important friendships to savor
(mine among them, I hope) and he has reentered the world in a positive way, scarred, but
ready to live each day again.
Paul Monette buried a second partner and then fell in love again, the partner with whom
he was living at the time of his death. The documentary, which is brutally honest in its
depiction of his final decline, can't fail to show his determination to live as full a
life as he could for as long as he could.
I hate that we have two dead children. I love that we had them for 24 and 30 years,
respectively. I listen to Paul's voice on CDs, so full of life and remember his energy as
he bounced around the stage, or sat quietly, an audience riveted by his performance. I
remember the huge grin on David's face the last time I saw him. I remember baby David and
toddler David and haircut David. Priceless memories.
But I don't want to live in the past. My life did not end with the death of two
of our children. So many incredible things have happened since the death of David and
Paul. (How incredulous they would be to hear the tales of my bike riding and exercise
programs!) It's a cliche, but life really is for the living and to wrap myself in a
cloak of mourning at their loss is to deny myself the chance to live my own life in the
years that I have left.
"You pick yourself up and look out the window, and once you do you see
everything that was there before the world ended is out there still."
The closing scenes of "The Brink of Summer's End" show Paul Monette and his
partner on a beach in Southern California. They are walking and then dancing and in the
very final scene Monette is twirling around, his head thrown back, a huge smile on his
face, looking very much like Zorba the Greek.
Paul Monette insisted on joy.
So do I.