Letter From New York

April 2, 2012

Or, as it seems to me…


It is the Sunday evening of a dreary, chill weekend, when all the world seemed cold and darkened, a world in grief.  The wild portents of spring of a week or so ago have retreated; lost to the Queen of Winter who wants one more mad moment of sway over the world before she hibernates for another year.

Perhaps it is just the earth mourning for some reason.  It seems to be a time of mourning. A week ago my lunch was punctured with the news my friend Jim Marrinan had died.  That news was followed Tuesday by news that a neighbor of mine was in very bad shape and not expected to recover, followed by the news that another friend, a sweet, gentle man named Tim Smyth, was in intensive care at Bellevue Hospital in New York with no one sure what had happened to him nor whether he would “make it.”

He’d been found, alone, lying on a street in the West Village in New York.  It does not quite fit the mold for anything and so the NYPD has assigned a detective to the case; enough doesn’t add up that they think Tim may have been the victim of a mugging or, perhaps, a gay bashing. 

And so, I sit here on a Sunday evening attempting to pull together the mysteries of a week in which it seemed bad news cascaded.  I spoke to Tim’s sister who said, “You never know when the last normal day is going to be.”  And that has resonated so much with me this weekend as I have ruminated on life:  you do not ever know when the last normal day is going to be.

And yet we go on, living our lives while other lives end and are celebrated.  Jim has been put to rest with all the celebration he would have wanted, in a way consistent with his proud Irish heritage.  Tim lies in a hospital while surrounded by family and friends, waiting to see if he will be roused from the coma in which he rests.  Outside the hustle and bustle of the city goes on.  In another hospital my neighbor Rosemary lies, also hovering between here and the hereafter.

It is a reminder to me that I must live in the now and treasure my now because now cannot be taken for granted.  And as I grow older, and I do even while feeling as if inside I haven’t changed in twenty years and think I am still younger than I am because I do not, inside, feel old, I am growing older and my friends, my contemporaries, are dying of “natural causes.”  And while I still live with the illusion of immortality, I cannot any longer so exquisitely embrace that illusion and must make sure my affairs are in order and tidied up for those who will come after, so they are not burdened more than necessary in the stream of events.

It is all sobering and yet somehow comforting, this understanding that all is not infinite – finite is the normal.  Thousands of millions have come and gone and will come and go and life will go on while we are remembered after our passing by those who loved us.  The Egyptians had a phrase:  to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.  No wonder the Pharaohs worked so hard to be remembered.  Few of us will have that resonance but all of us will be remembered and our names will be spoken by those who loved us.  And the love we give will shape those around us so that goodness and kindness will whisper down the generational trails even after names are forgotten.

God said:  go forth and multiply.  I think He meant not just in numbers but also in deeds and so may all of us go forth and multiply our good deeds so that the memories of us are carried by the winds even to those who do not know our names.


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One Response to “Letter From New York”

  1. natureboyjeff Says:

    Tim is awake! He continues to make progress daily as his vocabulary and motor skills return. Close friends should visit to help his recovery. He is in NYU Rusk pavilion on east 17th st.

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