Monday, July 29, 2013

My Rose of Sharon, One Year Later

You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.

That day in Moscow, it will all come true,
when, for the last time, I take my leave,
And hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you.

Sometimes we must genuflect before the poignant confluence of art and life. 

A crimson sky bathed the rear garden in an ethereal glow moments before darkness shrouded this part of the world--yet it was not at the time conceived of as a prelude to the dramatic storms that would follow several hours later. 

Torrents of wind-driven rain produced a turbulent river down the street, carrying the detritus of human life and the limbs and leaves of trees with it; rolling crescendos peaked into the denouement of piercing claps of thunder; and razor-sharp streaks of lighting slashed the skies while illuminating black, angry clouds.

I did hear thunder and I did remember her: our beloved Sharon who left this world one year ago today.

And this morning she appeared to me in different form: an exuberant display of her favorite flower in my garden: Blaze Starr Rose Mallow, which last year in commemoration of her brief life and indescribably humbling relationship with her cancer, I dubbed my Rose of Sharon.

Not to be overly metaphysical about it. 

But Sharon identified with the flower: for her, looking across the street every morning for weeks during summer's midpoint and decrescendo, she absorbed its beauty, mused on it.  It was often the opening salvo of our daily morning conversations, her sitting on her stoop having coffee, me, emerging to feed the outdoor cats.

But the sunset, the storms, the Akhmatova poem (a particular favorite of mine), Rose Mallow's first display of more than 6 flowers at a time: their junction struck me as a sign.

But the cancer...

But it was her cancer. She took ownership of it in order to accept it. She did not fight in the way we normally attribute "struggles" or "battles" with cancer; in this way, she lived Susan Sontag's exegesis, Illness as Metaphor. And her ownership of this virulent, fast-consuming thing, we think, helped her move forward and live "normally" for months with few ostensible effects. And then suddenly, one morning she awoke, and she appeared different, for the cancer, overnight, transformed the physicality of our beloved Sharon. And such began the rapid descent...

We may find and derive meaning in and from the lives of others: what they do and how they are helps us intuit their Being. And Sharon did ever so much, welcoming us into a predominantly African-American neighborhood, when many looked down upon us with disgust and suspicion, and warding off the vitriol sent our way. And over the years, we cultivated a harmony and camaraderie because, as she occasionally said, we are all in this together. That's what Sharon brought to this world. And what she left us.

And so today I see signs of her, and celebrate her life, even if the celebration is marked by tears and pangs of pain, much like the fuchsia droppings of Rose Mallow as she discards those magnificent blossoms daily, during the evening, as if exhausted from serving as a vanguard of beauty.

Such is the residue of a powerful life lived that all of us must bear.

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