Loved ones don't vanish with death; they become invisible, but
their shadows go on falling upon the living, waiting to continue the dialogue.
~ Alain Draeger
One Corpse Too Many
25 April 2004
In the Jewish tradition, a yahrzeit is the anniversary of the death of a relative, observed with mourning and the recitation of religious text.
Gilbert was Jewish and I learned about yahrzeit after his death. We occasionally still refer to the annual dinner we have each July as a yahrzeit. In the early years, I actually took the Jewish prayer book his sister gave me and rode the ferry boat across San Francisco Bay, where we tossed his ashes, and recited the ritual prayers. That tradition got dropped when I changed purses one year and somehow lost the prayer book. But we continue to have our yearly get-togethers.
Somehow a barbeque, Manhattans and whiffle ball dont exactly fall under the category of "mourning and recitation of religious texts," but thats essentially what we attended today. An open-air yahrzeit of sorts, with lots of food, lots of drink, lots of friendship, and lots of love.
This year, Pauls best friend Kag and his wife Elizabeth decided to host a gathering of Pauls friends in a park in Berkeley. Im sure they didnt think of it as a yahrzeit, but when we got the invitation, Walt said You know what this is, dont you? Its a yahrzeit."
And so we went.
We parked on the street and entered this lovely park and knew we were headed in the right direction because we saw the sign:
"FTS" is what is engraved in tiny letters on Paul & David's grave marker and means "f*ck this sh*t," which Paul had once joked was what he wanted on his tombstone. Feeling somewhat uncomfortable with carving that specifically for all eternity, we went with the shortened version. For Christmas that year, Kag made t-shirts for everyone with the "FTS" logo on it.
When we arrived, there was Kag, at the barbeque pit, wearing Paul's old Lawsuit bowling shirt. Kag's real name is Paul Kagiwada, but when he and Paul met in Kindergarten, Paul decided that there couldn't be two Pauls in the same class,, so he would call Paul K, "Kag." The name stuck and now, some thirty or so years later, he is still known as Kag. After Paul died, Kag was the logical person to be given Paul's monogrammed shirt.
The afternoon was a wonderful gathering of old Lawsuit cronies, many of whom I haven't seen in years. Dan, for example. I don't think I've seen him since Paul's funeral.
And Chad and Vicki, with 6 month old Aneka. Chad and Paul were great friends for many years and Paul helped Chad's brother Dave (who has Downs Syndrome) perform the ceremony that married Chad and Vicki. It was great to see them.
There were so many little kids there and I was reminded of the first yahrzeit after Gilbert died when I rode the ferry across San Francisco bay, where we had scattered his ashes the year before, and enjoyed watching a little toddler running around the deck of the boat. At some point someone asked her parents how old she was and they said that she would be a year old the following week. Seeing that little kid was a visual reminder of how long Gilbert had been dead.
Kag's son Milo (right) was the first of the Lawsuit babies. Elizabeth was pregnant when Paul died and to look at this grown up kid was a real visual reminder of how long Paul has been gone.
Milo is named for Paul. Sort of. His name is Milo Travis Kagiwada and when he was born, they wanted to name him for Paul, but since his father's name was also Paul, they decided to go a different route. Paul was a fanatical Robert DeNiro fan and his very favorite movie was Taxi Driver, where DeNiro played Travis Bickle, the mentally unstable Vietnam vet working as a taxi driver. I know Paul would have been thrilled that Kag and Elizabeth chose "Travis" as a name for their son, in order to honor Paul.
After Milo came so many other babies and they were all there today, including Milo's younger brother, Henry, who enjoyed playing in the mud with Ned. It was hard to know which was having the most fun.
There was lots of food and Manhattans (Elizabeth said Paul would be proud to know that Henry, who dunked his hand in her Manhattan, had tasted his first Manhattan at this picnic!)
And there was wiffle ball, with all the guys trying to outdo each other hitting the ball out into the field. Walt's form showed that there's life in the old boy yet.
We stayed most of the afternoon--and a beautiful afternoon it was too. A sign we passed put the temperature at 94, but it didn't seem nearly that hot under the shade of the park's trees.
I don't know if this is going to become a yearly event, but I hope so. It's a lovely way for everyone to get together, in a loving, not at all maudlin way. Paul would have loved it.
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