Yesterday, Saturday, I attended a funeral at Oak Hill Cemetery in Woonsocket for the father Peter Vangel of my good friend and champion of Oak Hill, Elizabeth. The ceremony was grave side and so I was able to drive in and watch from my car. I wish that I could have been more active. He was a jewel of a man and had a great career as an educator and superintendent of schools. It was a beautiful occasion with a ceremony led by an Orthodox priest and a Cantor. The sounds that filled the grave site were holy and soothing.
My friend Elizabeth has cared for both her parents for more than ten years. Her devotion is only surpassed by her refusal to allow the dictates of others to tell her how to conduct her life and prolong the lives of her parents. She regularly amazed friends and neighbors by spiriting both parents off to Block Island where they rejoiced in the ocean views and invigorating fresh breezes.
She once told me that after her father's first hip replacement a phrase came to her head. You can either live dying or die living. SHE chose the die while living and that meant to her living life to the full.
I also mourn the death of a friend who did die living. My dear friend from Cincinnati Jackie Demaline. She was the Drama Critic for many years at the Cincinnati Enquirer and we became close friends when I was the drama specialist at the University of Cincinnati.
It is rare to meet anyone in life who shares your passion for a subject. So meeting Jackie added greatly to my life and my work. She and I would concoct schemes for new organizations or events to promote drama.
To name just two-- I began with her help and instigation and with other interested people the Theater of the Mind--a play reading series at the Mercantile Library and The Cincinnati Playwrights' Initiative to produce readings of new plays by local playwrights at the Aronoff Center.
She was a great Provocateur and she was witty, feisty and dynamic. Also loving and kind. I will miss her and so will the many friends that she made.
I made the move to get to know her better when in the 1990's I was invited to one of her legendary Birthday Parties --I missed the last in May. 2018. There we were in a small restaurant--Jackie ate most meals out in public. And I was late. When she saw me, she rose from her chair and came forward to greet me with a hug.
I don't know what inspired me but I was moved by the warmth of her gesture to answer in kind. And without expecting to and without planning, I recited out loud a little poem that I knew as a child.
(with apologies to Leigh Hunt who wrote "Jenny Kissed Me")
JACKIE KISSED ME WHEN WE MET
JUMPING FROM THE CHAIR SHE SAT IN
TIME YOU THIEF WHO LOVE TO GET
SWEETS INTO YOUR LIST, PUT THAT IN
SAY I'M WEARY, SAY I'M SAD
SAY THAT HEALTH AND WEALTH HAVE MISSED ME
SAY I'M GROWING OLD BUT ADD
JACKIE KISSED ME.
So I send to Jackie in eternity this last kiss. May she continue to make us aware of her love and care by prodding us to do more with our creative energies. She always did.
Sometimes writing this blog I feel like the spider that
Walt Whitman describes in his poem--
A noiseless patient spider, I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated, Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding, It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself, Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them. And you O my soul where you stand, Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space, Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them, Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold, Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
This is how spidery I sometimes feel as I weave the warp and woof of these blog entries and toss them out to the wilds of the internet. I guess that being old makes one feel more isolated and for me the exploration of my own creativity seems like the only and best option open to me.
That is why I am grateful to my readers who comment--not because of what they say, but because now I know they are there and it gives me proof that some of the gossamer threads I throw out from here in Pawtucket do catch somewhere.
O MY SOUL