February 04, 2021

The Memorial

I was there as an observer and it was one of the most compelling observations I've ever been allowed to make. It's the kind of thing that makes you realize that life is not yours to take for granted, even if we are all guilty of doing just that. It reminds you that while all things might not happen for reasons we understand, things happen and that life is too powerful for death to ever stop it.

Which might be the most interesting aspect of a memorial. Memorials are for the living to celebrate the dead. And while I understand that we all must die, it's something I've always had a hard time comprehending why.

Life is too powerful for death to ever stop it.

Yes, life goes on, and as I watched Jeffrey Sparks lead the procession from Nicole's memorial to the place of her death, I couldn't stop thinking about him. He was beating a drum, always looking straight ahead, and he had the intent and the drive and the eyes of a warrior. He pounded that drum until the end of the memorial. He was surrounded by some 200 friends and he, along with the two other people who had been there that night, came to celebrate the life of the woman whom he most obviously loved.

The three "witnesses" danced, wept, laughed, and displayed a range of emotions I wouldn't have thought myself capable of at a moment like that. And that they returned to the scene of what might amount to the worst day of all of their lives, was in itself an expression of strength. The street was bright, filled with bodegas and nail salons and apartments that go for more money than they are worth. And I thought that I could never be scared on this block. Then Jeffrey raised dead flowers over his head and lifted them and threw them into a chalk and rope outline of Nicole's body, and the flames began to stir on Clinton Street. It was as if her spirit was given permission to leave the place it had so suddenly become one with.

They returned to the scene of the crime. Some say that you have to do that in order to set a spirit free. People witnessed her spirit rising. I stayed on the outside of the circle. I don't have their strength.

Afterwards, a large group of us went to a bar to drink. Jeffrey was there and my eyes kept finding him, watching him interact in a world that must have felt both so familiar and so strange at the same time. I am a morbid thinker, this I will admit, but I couldn't, and can't, stop going back to what he must be feeling today, the day after he was filled with so much support and love and friendship. I watched as he talked with her friends, and as his friends lent their support and their courage, and how his friends were literally always there, by his side.

I watched with the survivor's guilt that I felt for having the chance to live this extra day. I can't imagine the survivor's guilt they are all feeling for having been there that night.

My heart is heavy today. Heavier than it was last night. Heavier than it has been in a while. And I am thankful for another day of life, even if sometimes life is really, really sad. At least I have a chance to bare witness to it all.

Posted by jamye at February 4, 2021 09:43 AM