One of the things that has haunted me is how much work I saw you do, just in the time that I knew you.
Maybe this is because I’ve been a works-oriented person for so long- thinking that if one works hard enough- good things will happen or one will be “blessed.”
“But you worked so hard…” kept echoing in my mind in the early months.
And you did.
I think of the nights you worked at an office job you loathed until 3 am. There was a period where this was nightly and you even slept there a few times. You didn’t get paid any overtime and at the end of the year you received no bonus- a huge disappointment. You were so stressed you started grinding your teeth in this period. I’d wait for you each night, feeling sick myself thinking of your misery. I’d call you or receive a call from you- and then if you said, “Looks like another hour or so,” I’d feel myself deflate. I felt so helpless. “Please quit!” I even begged you around this time. But you were ultimately, a very responsible person, and would not do this. You only lived until the age of 33. I wish you had not logged so many hours being miserable. Take note.
And then there was the music on top of that. Gigs you’d rehearse for after work and then return to your office job until late. Sometimes you’d carry both your cello and your keyboard somehow downtown. You’d finish work in Manhattan, come to Brooklyn to our home and eat something very quickly before leaving again with those heavy instruments. All along I was uneasy about all of this…wondering how you could keep up at that pace. But there was nothing I could do- no way to hold you back. You loved that work, and still- it was work.
Then there were the loads and loads of wash you hauled back and forth from our apartments to laundromats blocks away. The carts full of groceries that you carried up four flights in the brownstone in Park Slope. All of the moves that you did- from Staten Island to the Upper West side and to Park Slope, Bay Ridge, my parent’s house, Edgewater. All of the carrying and lifting and packing and unpacking. Getting up early to play cello or keys at church services…setting up the music equipment, breaking it down.
I guess what I’m asking is what is it all for? Or what was it all for? And if we live longer – like those of us still alive- what is it all for- what we do each day? Of course I’m not advocating a hedonistic lifestyle, an “eat, drink, and be merry” anthem, but just a little reflection on the things we throw ourselves into day after day.
We live our life in financial terms here often using the terms, “I invested so much in that job,” or relationship or home. We expect a “return” from people and things. But in death, life seems to defy any of that terminology- there’s no return, no investment- no calories in- calories out…
It’s something altogether different- and that’s why it stands out I think. Death.
It doesn’t abide by the rules we find naturally or the ones that we make up. There is no return that we see. Just a final collection.
But then, I think just now in the process of this writing, the Bible does talk about the Holy Spirit being a deposit. In this case, a return may have nothing to do with our efforts- but the buyer’s. But this deposit, according to the verses that follow in Ephesians, rather than a guarantee of purchase- guarantees an “inheritance,” something that is not earned, but given as a natural matter of course- from parent to child.
I hope this inheritance over you tonight Dan- even though you are gone and all is seemingly finished and collected. I hope the buyer will come back. It’s been a long time- thousands of years. It is hard to hope over ancient, translated documents. But if your deposit is large, you usually aren’t playing around- you will buy. If any of this is true, (and that’s a big if) his deposit would’ve been nothing less than his very life and breath. He must’ve meant business, I think? He will come back to complete the transaction no?
It occurs to me that death’s exemptions from these rules of investment and return meets its match in only one thing: love. Genuine love, also, will not be constrained into our terminology. It isn’t about getting a thank you note or patting yourself on the back…love is about giving without any expectation of return- anonymously even. Sacrificially, until it hurts. That’s the way you loved me Dan- giving up things you wanted, oftentimes your pride, Cable television- letting me know you’d give your life for me. That’s the way I love our daughter- the return of my investment- the pain of childbirth, endless nights of nursing, diaper changes, baths, brushing teeth, calming tantrums, putting together play kitchens, cleaning up glitter glue and sticky rice on the kitchen floor- the return of all that-
is her joy.
So- my earlier question- what’s it all for? If we want to invest in something death cannot take away- something as exempt from the rules as the casket- we invest in loving.
“We must know that we have been created for greater things, not just to be a number in the world, not just to go for diplomas and degrees, this work and that work. We have been created in order to love and be loved,” I read this morning – Mother Theresa’s words.
And so, in this magical writing process, I find myself facing a new direction. Not investment and return…but deposit and inheritance. (That is the power of process so often missed when we aim with the result already in mind, which I refuse to do in this case- it is too important to come with an agenda.)
I tell myself tonight.