"The day of his death was a dark cold day."--from In Memory of W.B. Yeats by W. H. Auden
How would you respond to dreadful news if there was nobody to see your reaction? Not a voice on the other end of the phone line or hands to grab yours as you found out that a friend was dying? Without a buffer of another presence, what would you do?
Thanks to Facebook I know the answer to this, for me at least. I was alone as I read a quick message sent from Bangkok and then immediately stood up, facing the way out of my apartment, both hands clutching my midriff, doubled over as my life changed. I think I was making some kind of sound because my cat rushed over to stare at me. I had no idea of what I was doing until I felt tears on my face--no thoughts, no words, only a strong blow that carried grief.
When the words I needed to get more information came to me, I felt as though I had to chisel them from ice. They emerged one by one, slowly. There came a phone number, with the warning that tubes made it difficult for the man I love to speak. "I think he wants to hear his friends' voices," his sister wrote.
I called him.
I steeled myself to make jokes about the wrong way to stop smoking and that this was no way to take a vacation so get out of bed. There was an intake of breath at the other end of the line that stretched from Seattle to Italy. There was a whisper like dry leaves in a hot wind, "I have no idea." I never heard him speak again.
And there was nothing I could do but send every scrap of energy I had in his direction. Hope became almost a prayer with every thought I had, every waking moment. There were no other words and writing anything was like vomiting up bits of broken glass.
Miracles of remission happen, but not for Sak. He died.
When I write those words, any time I write them, my fingers go numb, my wrists slacken, and I stop.
Facebook told me he was dying, Facebook told me he was dead, and now Facebook is where his wake is taking place. It's a spot where his sister has put up youtube clips of him with his daughter, where friends post photos of him relishing his life, and there are songs he sang and photos he took. His life is there. I hope it always will be.
And he is immediately on my mind when I look at the loveliness of a world that no longer contains him. Worasak Jongthirawong, September 23, 1972-January 15, 2012. Sleep well, Sak. ("Earth, receive an honored guest.")