What are beautiful memories worth? Al Young, California’s first Poet Laureate, says they are priceless–cradling the most important and sustaining moments of our lives. Here I share Al’s letter to my mom and her husband Richard (written after Gabriele’s last guest post, On Life, Death, And Playing Soccer) in hope of making us all remember to make beautiful memories as often as possible. Because in the end, those are what counts.
With great appreciation for everyone who has sent a note, a prayer, or a ray of good energy winging Gabriele’s way–these have been the smooth, sacred stepping stones in our field of broken glass.
Dear Richard, Dear Gabriele –
Unable to thank you enough, Gabriele, for your brave, inspiring letter, jeweled with such shining likenesses of you, your children and grandchildren, I offer a little memory.
Three decades ago, when my mother opted for treatments for her spreading uterine cancer, I was visit-teaching at UC Berkeley. Weekends I’d fly to San Diego, take a bus to San Ysidro, cross into Tijuana, then take a taxi to the suburban hospital, where she was getting treatments. In Mexican hospitals, unlike up here, visitors get to sit up until all hours with their patient-relatives, patient-friends, patient-lovers. They would even wheel in a sleeping cot if you needed to spend the night. Mother and I strolled slowly through our lives. I, her first-born, the eldest of seven, learned more about her life and concerns in those few weeks than I ever expected. One afternoon, pillow-bound, she looked up at me, her face all tears. “I wish I’d only known.” I handed her a tissue. “I wish I’d only known that life is about building up beautiful memories. In the end, that’s what you keep going back to. If I’d known this was what it’s all about, I would’ve spent more of my life working on beautiful stuff to remember.”
Of course you’re in my thoughts and quiet prayers. By surrendering to the truth of your body’s condition, you’ve entered a fresh dimension. While my own belief has it that spirit gets temporarily cocooned in flesh, I don’t push it on anybody. For all I know, we’ve run into one another across many an eternity. It doesn’t matter. Matter isn’t even matter. Spirit, a finely tuned energy commonly expressed as love, has neither beginning nor end. That’s the first thing they taught me in chemistry and physics classes. Newton’s Law of Conservation: “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it simply changes from one form to another.” Then they, my very teachers, went on acting as if they’d never said this. From your letter I can tell you’re accepting this stressful experience, your transformation, by taking it to heart.
Go on out, play soccer with your kids, fall on your face, and get grass-stained again.
I love you, Gabriele. And you, too, Richard.
Yours as always,