Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Passages ...

Attended a memorial service on Saturday -- the day after the Rennie Harris dance performance -- and the contrasts were stunning.

The setting was the nursing home where my friend, Henry "Buddy" Sims, spent his final three years of life. As the godmother of his only son, Lyn, this was a service I dared not miss. Properly dressed in my only black pants suit I managed to arrive promptly for the two o'clock service -- to find myself in a room with my contemporaries -- mostly strangers with whom he'd shared his last years. There were also his relatives, most of whom I'd not met before and at least two widowed friends.

The thing I remember most about Buddy was his enthusiastic two-finger jazz piano duets with anyone who could handle the bass end of the keyboard -- and his inventive dance steps. No one could boogie like Buddy.

I realized in looking around that here was my age appropriate group, yet I felt out more out of context here than I'd felt last night at the Yerba Buena Center; strange. I have no sense that I'm trying to escape the aging process. In many ways I'm probably more aware of the inexorable passage of time than ever before. What's different? Could it have been the nursing home setting? There were so many in the room with walkers and attached to oxygen tanks and wheelchairs ... felt a shudder. I realized how fortunate I've been for such a long time; blessed by excellent health and continuing energy with which to move through life without the hindrance of some chronic illness to contend with.

It's quite possible that the fact that I've not stopped working has added to my stamina -- but there's surely something more to pay attention to. Wish I knew what it was ... .

It's genetic, I suppose. Long-lived parents and grandparents surely account for much of it. One thing is perfectly clear, at least. Despite arguments to the contrary miscegination surely did not foul the gene pool!

Given any luck at all, a favorable response to global warming, a world eventually at peace, continuing safe journeys on the roads, I may make it to the century mark as did my mother, Lottie, and greatgrandmother, Leontine Breaux Allen. But that's a crap shoot these days, and the odds are not great, I think.

I think that I'm less afraid of death than of dying. Its not that I'm all that courageous -- it's simply that I've never been able to imagine the state of non-existence ... .

On Friday of this week there will be another memorial. This time is will be another dear friend, masterful jazz pianist, Ed Kelly who died a week ago after a long battle against a devastating stroke. This will be different, I think. The service will be held in a large African American -- Allen Temple Missionary Baptist Church in East Oakland. Every musician for miles around will be in the congregation. There will be great music and I'm certain that his life will be celebrated magnificently. His son, Terence, is the director of the internationally famed Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. Ed often accompanied the group so surely they will " ...make a joyful noise onto the Lord."

I will surely feel less age-isolated in that congregation since folks of every age and gender will share in that celebration and the music will erase all of the insignificant differences -- all except the love we shared for Ed and one another during his lifetime.

In a way I'm looking forward to this experience. It will be inter-racial, inter-cultural, but firmly rooted in Black culture. It will be rich and memorable, and I will be nourished for having been a part of it.

Wish Buddy could have attended. It would have been his cup 'o tea ... .

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