Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Recommended Reading - Part II: Photographs and the Quiet Eloquence of Grief

piggiebackWe learned of Ben's death on Friday night. On Saturday, this image appeared on Daniel's blog.

My initial response was also wordless, merely a long, blank moment of silence. That morning I went out and took photographs. The result was an album titled East in the Morning, which I explained as follows: "When all else fails, I take pictures. On Saturday, September 29, 2007, all else failed for me in a way it never had before. So I did the only thing I could."

In the days that followed, some of us found words for what we were feeling. Some of us didn't. Below are the two posts I think of most often when I think of the days after Ben's death.

The first is my own, from Sunday, September 30 2007:
Where I Am
I am in a place where I can't believe it. Can't believe that I will never again in this life speak, laugh, drink with one of my best friends. And I don't just mean "I can't believe it." I mean that I can't. If I allow myself to believe it I will cease to function. When Mark called me on Friday night I broke down. Since then, I have not allowed my brain to accept this loss as real. I know that ultimately, that is not healthy, and that, ultimately, I will need to accept that reality. The problem is that every time I have started to grasp it, my brain goes wonky. It just stops being able to make coherent sense of anything. I'm not ready for that yet.

I am in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I am extraordinarily fortunate to have several wonderful friends very close by. But here's the thing: the one thing I want, that I could conceivably have, more than anything else, is to have as many friends as close as possible. I don't have any details about a memorial service for Ben, but my guess is that it will be closer to here than to most of the places that the rest of you are. So if for that reason, or just because you need the comfort of the closeness of friends (I know I do), you want to come to Lancaster, do. This is an open invitation to any of my friends. I know it's difficult with work and school and the suddenly insignificant responsibilities of adult life. But if you can get away, if you want to come, please do. We a have a guest bed; we have an air mattress; we have sleeping bags.
Eat our food; drink our whiskey; be here.

 And the other is Daniel's, from a week later, Monday the 8th:
I wish Ben could read this entry and those that will follow. I would love to tell him that Patton is a remarkable young man, and a hick and a conspiracy theorist, and still quietly remarkable. I would like to tell him how much time we spent hanging out with his brother Daniel, what he taught me about Torah, and how great it was to see him playing guitar with Isaac, then with Dave. I want to tell him how his younger brothers and sisters climbed all over Brandon and Timothy. I want to tell him how Dr. Cary was at his house. I want to tell him I got drenched in sweat trying to keep up with his dad dancing to Hebrew dance beats. I want to tell him how much I now understand about his tangled and complex relationship with his family's faith.

Most of all, I want to tell him how Saturday night, after everyone else was gone from our campsite of college friends, I took the last remaining, half-charred piece of firewood down to the dock, doused it in lighter fluid, lit it and pushed it out onto the stock-still surface of the lake. And how I was worried for a moment it was going to run into a boat docked there and set it on fire. And how it was glorious. And how it was goodbye.

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