Thursday, February 15, 2007

What I Couldn't Write

Thanks Bruce for writing your post on February 12th. I couldn't write on the boat, and I couldn't write once off the boat. I didn't know what was appropriate and what was inappropriate. Nothing I could write seemed like it would matter. But after reading your post and one of my student's posts, I felt like maybe words could massage my emotions a little.

Tonight is Jeremiah's memorial service at Punahou, and a friend asked if I might know an uplifting poem for a family member to read. I don't know if it'll be read. And I've talked with another friend about the last lines and how they might be interpreted. But as I read the email requesting the poem, I looked up and saw this one cut-out and tacked to my bulletin board. I put it there several months ago, which I don't do very often. For some reason, it spoke to me then.

Elevator Music
by Henry Taylor

A tune with no more substance than the air,
performed on underwater instruments,
is proper to this short lift from the earth.
It hovers as we draw into ourselves
and turn our reverent eyes toward the lights
that count us to our various destinies.
We're all in this together, the song says,
and later we'll descend. The melody
is like a name we don't recall just now
that still keeps on insisting it is there.


I also tried to write down, as coherently as possible, some anecdotes and memories to be shared tonight. This is what I wrote:
Last summer Jeremiah orchestrated the beginning of what would become the legendary Thursday night faculty water polo game. For the first few months, everybody played a well-behaved game. Then we all started to develop some endurance and a semblance of skill. Consequently, we also started to play according to the reputation of the game. What I mean is that underwater, we started to play more aggressively, a tug of the shorts here, a tug on the leg there. I'll always remember Jeremiah being the voice coming from the middle of the pool, saying "let's not play too rough guys! Let's keep it fun." at some point after the beginning of the school year, even Jeremiah quit saying it and started yanking trunks, too…my wife and I admired and looked up to Jeremiah and because they were at the next step in life relative to us. So we had a lot of questions and were looking for examples of young couples with careers, kids, and healthy families. A few weeks ago, we were in California with family. All our cousins have small children or children on the way, and I remember sharing with them about the way Jeremiah and used sign language to help empower Kirra's sense of communication. I also remember describing the way they saw Kirra as part of their life rhythm and how they'd do all the things they always did and would bring her along to share their life with her…but what I most want to share with Jeremiah's family and friends is about 20 special minutes Sunday morning. It is an image that has stayed with me and perplexed me and comforted me. The beauty of the sea cliffs, the reef, the people, the sky, the blue remained constant. But during and after the rescue attempt, at the moment when the students, crew, and chaperones were together, a pod of spinner dolphins encircled the boat and a humpback whale surfaced 30 yards from us. I'm not sure what all of that means, and I'm not doing a very good job with the words to describe it. But it reminded me of the beauty of Jeremiah's life and the beauty the surrounds him always…

1 comment:

Lindsey said...

Mr. Johnson was both my biology teacher, and my AP Environmental Studies teacher. He inspired me to become more environmentally active, to not feel discouraged by the horrible things that are happening. He helped me understand that we can take a stand, and slowly restore our Earth to a semblence of what it used to be. He was such a great teacher, and a great man. It still feels so strange talking about him like that.

As a student, we take for granted our teachers. We think of them as solid rocks that will never leave us. It was a chilling experience.

One thing that helped me feel a little better was something that my Nonna (Italian grandma) told me. She said that because of his death, because that was such a poignant moment in my life that I will never forget, all that Mr. Johnson taught me will stay with me as long as I live. That sense of inspiration doubled, and trippled.

I wasn't able to go to the memorial service on thursday because of my trip, but my mom went for me. I'm definitely going to write Kirra a story about all the memories I was able to have with him.