Wednesday, September 3, 2008


The sound of paper ashes separating from the flames brought in the memory of an afternoon rain more than two decades ago. Yes, twenty-five years ago, Richard and I were under one umbrella heading to a community meeting. We were both social workers in the city. He sang under the rain. “You’ve got a friend”. Twenty-five years ago to this day, only time and space have changed --- I still hear Richard singing when it rains.

Under the New Year’s Eve sky I watched the pages of letters, photos, book markers and other sheets of scented paper curl and burn.

“This moment has to pass or an infinity of frozen love songs on the guitar would never leave."

The songs that Richard sang to me when he wanted me to laugh needed to burn as I emptied my box of memorabilia on the embers before me.

"How do I burn the songs in my heart?”

I closed my eyes trying to be calm as I performed my ritual of good bye. As I was a struggling prisoner of memory, the New Year was a kind of key that would unlock my door. I needed to do this ritual to move on. After an hour of listening to the sound of ashes separating from sheets of paper, I entered my room promising myself not to cry. I took a pen and a piece of paper and wrote whatever it was that I felt that moment. I traced my own unique map of emotions. Why should that sense of completeness I’ve been running after intensely be always out of my reach? Why have other people been so lucky to catch their special starlight?

I wrote my manifesto of letting go:

“To an all-loving Universe, I know, you are there to support me. I am removing my grip on the memory of Richard that haunted me for twenty-five years. I let that memory go with the flames a while ago. The New Year will find me a free woman –loving but never having a grip on love again. I will be fine.”

The ritual somehow gave me inner peace. The tears that flowed even when unbidden stopped and for the first time I found the energy to surf the internet for dating sites. I surfed and surfed and ended up with a dating site for Capricorns. John Wesley popped up with the profile that attracted me: Independent Consultant on Participatory Processes. Loves poetry and music. Loves to cuddle by the fireplace.

“Ah another Capricorn.”

“What is it in Capricorns that you can’t resist” asked John in one of his emails."

“I don’t know. It’s just that I am surrounded by Capricorns. My best friends are Capricorns. “

John and me wrote lengthy letters to each other. We called our exchange “co-journaling.”

He sent me a poem that I thought had replaced the stubborn song in my heart. I kept this poem in my wallet at the back of John’s photo as a sort of talisman against vulnerability to Richard’s possible return.

In Passing

Do you see
ebb and flow
And we
the salts
earth and stars;
textures of each
our own
easing magically
sipping spirits
a warm
eternal hearth.

Today is another New Year’s Eve , 5 years after my New Year’s Eve ritual. I heard a familiar voice in the neighborhood. “You’ve Got a Friend”. I couldn’t believe it. It was Richard on the guitar. My neighbor is a former colleague who is now an independent consultant in Indonesia. She was also Richard’s former colleague.

I got news that Richard has been widowed seventeen years ago and never remarried.
I heaved a sigh and saw myself as a bird perched on a dry twig. The twig was about to break but I was not afraid. I could fly.

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