Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Out and up for Down Under

So I am heading to Australia. And I have not been blogging. The things are vaguely connected. I didn't mean things to go this way, but there it is.

The trip to Australia was planned months ago ... a long-delayed visit to my sister's adopted homeland of over 30 years. Summer is always exhausting for me, as the conscientious reader of my poultry scratch will know. And I was just pulling out the miasma when ... well, when tragedy struck. I want to be delicate and not name precise names for the sake of the peace of mind of those closest to the tragedy.

My 27 year-old nephew, who suffered for more than a decade from a debilitating case of chronic fatigue syndrome, took his own life. He would be my Australian sister and brother-in-law's older son; he has a younger brother who is hale and hearty, and crushed by the loss of his brother, as were his parents.

So the trip to Australia has a deeper, more sober, undoubtedly more reflective tone than was promised by the original plans. It turned out this way, and it turns out that I can be there for those I love, grieve with them, look to the past and future together with them.

Kris was the first descendant of my parents to pass from this vale. Counting my parents, there were ten of us across three generations. Now there are nine. It's been a rough passage.

His death knocked the last bit of wind out of my sails, and eventually I gave in to my writer's block and let the blog go on hiatus. But that will be over now ... I plan to blog furiously on this trip which will last until September 28. I even forked over $7.99 to tmobile for a 24-hour airport pass that I will use for one hour to get this post written.

I enjoy travel blogging ... wish I traveled more so I could do more of it. This one will be mixed ... the joy of reunion, the fascination of the new, and the irreducible sorrow of a young man gone before his time and by his own hand.

So to wrap it up for now, here is what I wrote to be read at his funeral; I will post over the next week or so the writings of all of us that were read as his family and friends said good-bye.

Remembering Kris

I am Kris's uncle in San Francisco. I last saw him when the whole family came to my annual gala Christmas party in 1998. All my friends still remember my fabulous Australian family, and they all remember the quiet teenage boy who smiled and did not say a lot.

That Christmas in San Francisco and later in Winchester was the last time I saw Kris. I wish I knew him better ... but I feel that what I do know is that he was one of us, the brave son of my sister and the love of her life, the boy who did not say a lot, but who persevered as long as he could.

His passing has given all of us here great pause. My friends have given me their time to reflect on life and choices and the difficulty of imagining what it is to be in someone's else's place. We must learn even from tragedy, and Kris's moment now strives to teach us not to judge what others find necessary no matter how much pain we feel.

Even so, nothing reduces the quiet, the hollowness of loss. I am reminded of a Malay poem I have long loved:

The angel’s trumpet blooms flowery white
oysters lie stranded along the beach
I want to embrace the mountain, its might
what’s the use, the hands don’t reach

Our lives and loves and learning are founded in striving. But there are some things we cannot touch, we cannot reach, we cannot understand. In remembering Kris, I think of that. I think of what he understood about what he could and could not do. I wish he had made another choice. But who am I to say. Who are we to say.

May he rest in our memory, beloved, so long as we have memory.

1 comment:

Teresa said...

Stephen, your post has left me feeling blessed to know you. Your writing touches the heart.

--TJ