Friday, March 30, 2007

The Heart Gets Harder (last of the trilogy)

by Ken Houghton

Janna came in from Seattle. Peter is up from Maryland. There are undoubtedly Others from Elsewhere.

The Usual Suspects are mostly there. Glenn is a Presence. I find myself seated between Lucienne* and her husband and Keith and his wife. Janna sits with Keith. Jean, arriving as the service begins, sits behind Lucienne. Many others are familiar or known. There are those I have always known as editors (Claire, Ian, Josepha, eventually Ginjer) and those are now or may now not be (Amy, Kim, Carol). And writers. And those who do both, including many of the above. Surely there are others.

The front row must be the family.

I know the map, if not quite the territory. It is Another Country: No Longer Quite My Own, perhaps, but recognizable nonetheless.

We all look older. Except maybe Alex herself, who must have a video tape somewhere.**

The service begins with what I believe is one of Dylan’s versions of "Forever Young." It seems somehow both inappropriate and apt at the same time.

(In less than two years, I will expect to be older than he is now; David will not have aged.)

The Rabbi and the cantor speak. They remind us that we are supposed to be celebrating a life. The Rabbi reads a list of David’s attributes that Alex put together last night. "A hair dresser’s dream; a hair dresser’s nightmare" brings down the house.

It will not be the last time.

The chapel is full, despite it being a NYC work day. People continue to arrive.

The Rabbi puts props on the podium, Aspects of David. A Dumbledore. A Gandalf whose hat and/or head keeps falling off. A troll who is described as having been "his study partner."

The personal eulogies begin in earnest. Janna is called up, and reads a Rumi poem; maybe two of them, maybe two parts of the same one with a bit of personal anecdote in between.

The other poet read and cited during the service is Kahlil Gibran.

Others make brief, scheduled appearances. No one tells the same story. Tissues are being used up.

The Rabbi, appearing every so often, clearly knew and liked David. He’s not so much a cleric-for-hire as a fellow traveler.

Matt Walker talks about David’s eyes, and I don’t understand. He reaches for a joke or two, respectfully, and notes that the post-heart attack David was nothing if not self-aware. (Is it he who says that David’s last words to him, the night before he died, were "I feel good about what’s to come"? Make it so.)

Rachel, the woman who was David’s first converso (in the good, voluntary sense) gets up and starts, through tears, by saying (roughly) "This is like the 'Because G-d Says So' portion of the Torah." Through tears, there is laughter. She reconciles faith and apparently-untimely death, ending as she began.

It is Alex’s turn. Is the room ready? She speaks of their meeting at school, and of their first night together. ("We jammed and played music and talked all night. And in the morning, he shook my hand like a gentleman and left. I was so pissed.") He wins a scholarship—either to the Jewish Theological Seminary, or to finish his Bachelor’s at The New School—called the Studly Endowment.

She talks about she and Kim enjoyed costuming David. (Our row looks at Kim, sitting diagonally in front of us; Keith points her out to his wife.)

She speaks of the "confidence of competence" and renders loving juxtapositions of personality. "My voice never annoyed him" abides.

People queue up to speak. Keith talks about playing music, playing poker, listening to baseball, and drinking with him. He mentions having edited him for The Ultimate Silver Surfer, an anthology in which now two have died young.

Memo to self: don’t sell a story to Keith until you’re old. (Oh, wait…)

A Christian retroactively makes him a Mason (I think that’s what happened).

John Ordover’s wife reads a sensitive note from him. Another Editor Heard From.

Glenn hits all the bases:

    Gandalf has long since been knocked from the podium for what will be the last time, so there is space for a prop in the center. He places a flask between Dumbledore and the troll.

    Speaking of Alex and David having to be able to laugh, due to their living a comic-book life: “He’s Jewish, a game creator, and a rock musician. She’s Italian, Catholic, and a classical violinist. Together, they fight crime.”

    Putting David’s influence into a context: “There will be people using David’s words in their marriage ceremonies. (beat) They’ll be speaking Klingon, probably, but….”

    Religion: “We’re putting him in the ground on Friday. I expect him to pop up Sunday and say ‘April Fools!’”

    Technogeeking with the best: “I’m tracking the websites that mention him; can’t tell who everyone is—another reason to hate LiveJournal.”

A few people later, the Rabbi tries to stop the speeches; time to leave for the cemetery. There are three people left, including Peter Heck. "They’ll need to be short."

No one quite calls out, "That’s okay. Peter can edit as well as write.")

The Rabbi relents.

Peter speaks of David as songwriter and musician. Another Peter follows. A final speaker, who is too tall for the microphone, notes that he was David's study partner, and the troll dares not argue.

He invokes Bruce Springsteen.

The Rabbi reminds us that the cemetery will need to close early today, and encourages a quick transition to cars. The service ends as someone (Alex?) quotes the observation of a young nephew: "He’s happy now."

They planned to play “The Pattern” as a recessional song, but the sound system isn’t quite working. We leave, many preparing for Brooklyn, the latecomers greeting and doing some brief socializing, people signing the Guest Book.

It is a large crowd, and I don’t want to leave it, but I have another funeral to attend.

Life Goes On.

*This is the Lucienne the Good Agent, who created this site, not the one who spawned You-Know-Who

**Classic movie reference

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