The Farewell Symphony

As Joshua's words come echoing across the water and down the years to me, I can't help thinking that his life was not just his finest thoughts about poetry and friendship, expressed in a style that rejected forcefulness in favor of sympathy, but it was also comprised of his long mornings in his dressing gown with his telephone, newspapers, the Hu Kwa smoked tea and the little sterling-silver strainer that sat in its drip cup when it wasn't straddled across a cup catching leaves. His life was made up of his pleasure in the morning glories as well as his hilarity .....

After [his death] I looked through all the letters I'd ever received from Joshua and I realized I'd been unworthy of him then, that he'd been sending them through time to me as I would become years later.

--Edmund White, The Farewell Symphony

Maybe it's this unyielding time of year, but lately there's been much death both in my life and in the lives of people I love. Rather than finding them shocking, I have begun to accept these losses as commonplace, albeit painfully so. Herein lies what Jane Smiley famously termed the Age of Grief. That point in our 30s when those who were the grownups begin to sicken and fade, leaving us to step into their shoes without any acceptable self-illusions or selfishness. When we lose the only ones who remembered us when were little and effortlessly dear, who forgave our sins as youthful folly, and who regarded us with the hope and fear and helpless affection with which every generation regards the one that will supplant them.

I suspect that most of what these people taught me I only roughly comprehend now. And I hope fervently that someday I will, like White, become the person that their best selves were already addressing.


Blogger naomi said...

you're a very good writer. nicely put.

2/02/2008 6:34 PM  

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