I had to make a trip to Portland this past weekend for that terrible event which is a memorial service for someone killed untimely and unexpectedly, leaving grieving relatives and bereft friends.
In this state of mind I thought a lot about Things. I took mass transit or walked, because Portland is a city set up for that (it was like being in Europe). It was cold, brisk, often sunny. The downtown has an ordinary grandeur, a place with an eye to aesthetics, the idea that any city is a better place if it has a measure of beauty and ease and orderliness and safety (and proper services--although given the state of the economy these days in Oregon and elsewhere I don’t know the extent of services these days). Such things speak to the interconnectivity of systems, how things that may seem hidden from us as individuals still affect us, how what we don’t know or experience can loom large or crucially for another.
One of the buildings I admired seemed to be a (the?) courthouse, with a fine stone façade with an MLKjr quote carved across the front above the entry:
Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.
Especially in this context, I thought of, and valued, this post by ladyjax: Getting down to it
I live within and around such disparate public and private worlds that it often seems to me that I have a hugely compartmentalized life with little that overlaps from one set to another set, but connection runs so deep it can only be traced with an attentive eye to the faint threads that bind us.
The memorial service was for my cousin, Kai Bodtker (45), who was killed in an accident on Feb. 26. This blow hit with all the unforeseen and devastating force of a blindside, which is what it was. For his parents--crushing. For his sister and nephews, brother-in-law, dear friends--stunning, unthinkable. I can toss out words, and do, but I can’t actually speak for them.
I knew Kai as the younger brother, because I am of an age with his older sister and she and I spent a lot of time together as teenagers (technically I’m two years older, but she was always more mature). In many ways that’s how I always envisioned him, even when we all rolled into adulthood and onward: I’s little brother. In adulthood, I saw him occasionally, not often. He was genial, he told great stories and loved to tell stories, he had a good laugh, he was funny. He collected comics. Srsly collected comics, I mean. Spiderman #1. Maybe upwards of 60,000 comics, or more.
I watched people come in to the Unitarian Church for the memorial service and I was amazed as they kept coming. Young and old, from various walks of life; we filled the sanctuary.
Life is so sweet, his mother had said on hearing the shattering news. Death reminds us of that.
Even when you see someone on a day to day basis, there is much about them that remains hidden. How much more so when much of their life is lived away from you or you don’t know them that well, or at all, really, depending. It is easy to make assumptions that we know what we need to know about the lives of others, but there is so much we remain ignorant of. These people. His life. His ability to connect with so many people in such diverse ways.
It makes a person reflect about what connection is, what it constitutes, what it means. We can honor connections, or reject them; we can value connectivity, or value holding ourselves apart or thinking it only affects someone else, not us. Not me.
I think, on the whole, we are wise to err on the side of recognizing connectivity, not just in terms of seeking connectivity but in recognizing how deeply interconnected the system of people and their societies is and must be because we are band animals; it’s how we evolved, to make connections both in the familial kin sense and in the pattern-making sense of trying to see how the world fits together, to make sense of the place we live and how we function within it and how and where we relate to others and the landscape.
Things get mashed together in the grieving mind. They all become connected, intertwined, difficult, necessary. You can’t look away. You want to look away. You mustn’t look away. Maybe you can’t make it right, or maybe you can make something right, but the hard things have to be faced, grappled with, embraced.
Life is so sweet.