Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Our son and his cousin Shanti were born a month apart. In a family with lots of cousins layered severally in time, they were pretty close. Today is the anniversary of the day Shanti died, in her twenty-fourth year, nine years ago.
As we often do (usually on her birthday), my wife and I went to the small community park on Bainbridge Island where there's a circular teak bench in her name. Shanti's dad made it, then took it apart and sent the pieces to everyone in the family, and some friends. We stained them, oiled them, sanded and polished them, then put it together and mounted it there, in the park, planted a cherry tree in the middle. The tree has grown impressively, and the trinkets we've hung on it over the years remain. Overlooking a pond where there are ducks and geese, paths for running and wheeling kids on strollers, it's in a lovely spot.
Shanti forced you to love her. Well, it was so easy and universal I can't say there was any coercion involved. But no matter who you were, she wanted to know you. Even me, who, for most of her life, was absent from many family gatherings, working; and when I was there, tired and sometimes distant. Not allowed. Shanti came over, sat down, and wanted to talk. She was beautiful.
A few years earlier, my brother's daughter died, at age twenty, in her junior year at Grinnell. Slyly humorous, smart and with warmth that radiated as if from a glowing briquet, she was considered their best friend by everyone she knew. Lori and Shanti didn't know each other, but they were remarkably alike, in physical beauty (one blond and fair, the other dark and shining) and in their genuine and active interest in and love for the people in their lives, reciprocated as if an essential part of your life. You couldn't not want to be in their presence. It was too much fun; there was too much light and joy to ignore.
Time heals not much, fractured, ambivalently. The acuity of the pain is diminished, I guess, but it seems with each passing year, the sense of loss is greater, the feeling of having been robbed of something really precious. At the time of their deaths, each had serious boyfriends. Each would have wanted to marry and have kids, and they'd have been spectacular moms, their kids lucky as kids can be. Both had spent lots of time working with children, and their love was obviously mutual. Pictures show it. Letters show it. What a loss, doubly, of tragic proportions. Their parents and siblings will always be in pain, the worst. But my wife and I, increasingly it seems, feel their absence, as presumed step stones of life are passed, untrod.
Today, at the bench, it felt all too immediate, the presence of absence was everywhere.
Om, Shanti. Shalom, Lori. How I wish to know you as you'd have been now. The world needs you both. We all do.