My Cuban poet friend was riled into compassion today after Mass, inviting me into a conversation filled with coincidences. The conversation involved two young adults, a male and female. The young man, an Indian gentleman, astounded with his intelligence and insight. Others have determined he is bound for a medical career as a doctor, yet through experience he ponders the contemplative life, spending three months of discernment at the monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, a Trappist order. I happen to spend a week at the monastery years ago, somewhat familiar with their ways. It was remarkable that the young couple both knew Vermont intimately. She was raised in New Hampshire, and both spent time in Manchester, Vermont—just north of the Carthusians, while knowing Bennington, the town I spent Saturday afternoon exploring, my second outing in the quaint town. The significant other is also familiar, through childhood experiences, with the areas of Vermont I ventured into. My Cuban poet friend was on fire, for good and bad, with spiritual excitation, or possibly torment, regarding the death of a friend. Her friend died of cancer. Refusing treatment through the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital, ignoring their impassioned pleas for Lymphoma treatment, she stubbornly pursued medical options self-chosen in Paris. Her decision proved unwise, the Paris treatments failed. She passed away before the age of sixty. The Cuban poet was distressed, reading the eulogy at her friend’s funeral. She emailed me words she wrestled with in outlining her words to honor her beloved friend. I feel secure in sharing them.
Writes Rilke: “Through loss, through great immoderate loss, we are actually quite introduced into [completeness]. Death is only an unsparing way of placing us on intimate and trusting terms with the side of our existence that is turned away from us.
(What should I emphasize more: our or existence? Both are here of the greatest significance, as if balanced by the weight of the stars!)”
“Whoever does not at some point absolutely affirm and even rejoice fully in the dreadfulness of life will never lay claim to the inexpressible powers of our existence; he or she will pass through life along the periphery and will have been, once the decision has been cast, neither one of the living nor one of the dead.”
I add: Adrienne did not pass through life along the periphery. She was and is part of our existence.