Saturday, March 19, 2016

Other people’s words… What moves you? Die knowing something. Do things that matter to your heart.

What moves you most in a work of literature?
Advice from my 80 year-old self
“What moves me is, I think, the trifecta of memory, love, and the passage of time. The close observation of character, of the moment as it passes – suffused with love. The writer who says: Here I stood! I loved the world enough to write it all down.” Sarah Ruhl in a NYT interview -
“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare; pry; listen; eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”
Walker Evans, who took archetypal photographs during the Great Depression (see one below)
I came up from the underground MUNI and there was this poster (Do Things That Matter to Your Heart) from an art project by Susan O’Malley: Advice from My 80 Year-Old Self: An Artist’s Bittersweet Legacy of Real Wisdom from Strangers Ages 7 to 88.
And I thought, “How is it going (Am I doing things that matter to my heart)?” And I answered myself, “Pretty well. Yes.”
Walker Evans photo
In writing about this poster, I found the following on the Brain Pickings site: "Just as the answers (posters like these)— some profound, some playful, all disarmingly sincere — began appearing across the San Francisco Bay Area in O’Malley’s public art installations, an unforgiving testament to the very premise of the project struck: One winter Wednesday, 38-year-old O’Malley fell unconscious and died a week before she was due to deliver the twin girls with whom she was pregnant; despite the emergency C-section, the babies also perished.”

Susan O’Malley’s words: I started this project because I needed to listen to my 80-year-old self. At the time, I spent sleepless nights wondering, Should I leave my grown-up job with a paycheck and benefits to pursue my artistic passions? This ongoing dream felt terribly irresponsible, scary, and uncharted. But with the rapid illness of my mom, who was only in her 60s at the time, life suddenly felt too short not to take a risk. How would I feel at 80 if I did, or did not, make this choice? Before I had the courage to truly take the leap though, I turned to the words of strangers to help me navigate the way.”
Point Reyes, March 2016
“This ain’t no disco; this ain’t no fooling around.” Talking Heads

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A beautiful person (looking into her mind), beautiful people

"We are to love in deed and truth, not just word and speech ... we ought to lay down our lives for one another." Dan Foster
(Some of the below names are changed for confidentiality.)
3/19/2007 - An email from Leslie to Diane & Marisa
Hi friends,
Maryam was discharged today about 1:00. I saw her yesterday and had a long visit + began trying to make arrangements to have A____ (brother) admitted at Green Oaks as his condition continues to deteriorate. Maryam and Nabilah both want him hospitalized and put back on his meds but he has continued to refuse to go into the Baylor ER altho staff have assured the family that he would be admitted. I did not go to the apt today as they were waiting for the Hospice Nurse so I don’t know if Nabilah and her husband who arrived yesterday were able to take him to Green Oaks after I left yesterday- that was their plan when I left about 4:30.
Leslie in her office, 1982
So see how this sounds for a plan:
Tomorrow while Nora and I finish with patients and close the clinic, maybe the 2 of you could visit her and see that everything is in place with Hospice (I have the # for Vitas but don’t know what Social Worker and Nurse are assigned). I will plan to go on Friday and over the weekend. We need to visit whenever we can- she has begun to have increasing symptoms as the cancer spreads throughout her body. Two days ago, she began having severe pain in her right leg, a result of it spreading to the bones in that leg, and yesterday she began to have difficulty swallowing. So Min predicts that she has only a short time (when pushed for an estimate, she told me 4-6 weeks and maybe less). As the cancer progresses, Min says that she will decline rapidly so we need to schedule ourselves to go by any day we can. If we share and you take Thursday/Friday beginning next week, I’ll take the rest. It is a great comfort to both Maryam and Nabilah to have us so I think we must do whatever we can.
I’ll bring the phone numbers and address tomorrow and we’ll work out the details. Diane, Maryam loved the flowers that you brought and tells me often how much she loves us.
If either of you are praying people, now would be the time. My heart breaks for this family, scattered all over the world, who in the end don’t even have their Muslim brothers and sisters to support them. To my knowledge (and Min’s) there has only been one visitor from the mosque in Richardson and that was at least 2 weeks ago. Of course, we haven’t discussed the irony that this beautiful Muslim girl would die surrounded by a Jewish Dr., his Hindu Nurse, a fellow wounded soul from Burma and her Christian friends from Agape.
I’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks for your help.  


We ought to lay down our lives for one another
Lay down our lives for one another
Lay down our lives
For one another

Saturday, March 5, 2016

One year

On our front porch
It’s been a year. Oh, Leslie. I miss you. I’ve loved you all my life – since we were 16 – for 55 years. I can’t believe how lucky I am. My heart is full – full of love, full of gratitude, full of grief. I adore you. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. Oh, what a life we had. It’s hard to believe how good it was – how full of love, how true – nothing was undone, nothing unsaid, nothing unfulfilled. 

Our happy little family. You, me, David. Talk about love! Through deeply magical times, through everyday times, through hard times, you loved him and are loved by him in full measure. With a year of your life left, he gave you (and me) a whole city – San Francisco, the best city in the world. And now, he’s taking good care of me. You taught me everything I know about being a parent – a good father, thanks to you. Sweet Leslie, we have a Son for the ages.

How we wish, how we wish you were here.
With David in Beautiful Hue - our favorite place

I was thinking a few weeks ago that you probably thought adoration was your due. When the roses were in bloom, I would scatter rose petals where I knew you would walk when you got home, on the sidewalk, up the steps, across the porch and to the front door, and I think you were like, that’s about right – and so it was. 

I can’t say who – the announcement isn’t mine to make – but someone you loved is pregnant. It’s a girl(!) and her name will be Leslie. Someone you helped in elementary school is graduating from Jesuit and has scholarship offers (>$40,000/year) from St. Edwards and Baylor. I’m in touch with your friends and they are all doing well. Your Son and his husband are well. Your husband is doing better – after all these years I love you as much as I ever did. 
January 2015

It’s probably against the rules, so I’m not actually saying that we’re scattering your ashes in the beautiful National AIDS Memorial Grove, and on Haight Street where so many people were so kind to you, and at the magical 37 bus stop, and in the Castro – places that you loved and where you were welcomed. And of course among the roses and perennials at our home. 
About 10 hours before you passed away.
Edematous, but look at you - Hi Leslie!

We had a beautiful life together. And then, in the past few years, it got even better. There were times in those last few months when it got hard between us (I didn’t understand what was happening). Then, somehow, we both surrendered and love came down like a shimmering fall of beauty and truth. Real. And then, as our time ran out, we were pure – ahhh, Leslie, how we loved.

You died as you lived, loving and loved.
A new Leslie!

The pain is unbearable. Stabbed to death every day – and still grateful, still loving, still adoring. 

National AIDS Memorial Grove - in the meadow, on the hillside, among the redwoods. Leslie!