Friday, September 26, 2008

 

It Tolls for Thee



Early morning flights out of New York are difficult, but the benefit is that I arrive in California with plenty of time to embrace a whole new day. I loved seeing the way this bank of fog nestled up against the land. From the plane, I could see how it was rolling and churning on the very edge--fog is dynamic. Fortunately, the sun goddess was kind, as she was during my wedding, and rolled back the fog so we had a week of intense sunshine.



I baked 4 pies--4 being the number for completion and all. Two were lemon meringue, and two were ollalieberry. A friend asked if the lemon meringue pies contained a secret--a rather insightful question, I thought--and I confirmed that they did. Of course, it was nothing harmful, so no worries.



The day of the memorial itself was very busy, and I figured I wouldn't get to eat any of the special sushi we ordered, so my mother and I made sure to have a special lunch just for ourselves the day before. I like the way that the egg bears the name of the restaurant: Akaoni, which means "red devil." The chef confided to me that he thought it would be fun to name his restaurant after the thing that Americans were most likely to fear. Personally, I think it would have been more offensive to name his restaurant "white devil," but who am I to argue with someone else's idea of subversion?



About 50 to 60 people attended the ceremony, which we held at our home. My father intentionally created our house to be something of a sacred space, and I couldn't imagine celebrating his life anywhere else. I had once intended my own wedding to be at the house, but the idea of over 100 people flushing the toilet was just too much.

You can see how the backyard is set up as a theater of sorts. My mother, husband, friend Marc and I stood at the bottom while guests filled out the patio and the steps. It worked out well though, as I said, the sun came out and things got pretty hot.



Another shot of the set up.



My mother is a pro. She welcomed everyone and explained why we were at the house, and not a church or similar place of worship. I had intended to read a poem, but became to emotional to speak in front of everyone. I am not a pro.

My husband read the lyrics to "More I Cannot Wish You" from the musical "Guys and Dolls." My father often said that he felt that one song summed up his feelings for me. Toward the end of his life, he confided that he no longer worried about me because I had what he most wished for me.

My friend Marc, brilliant scientist, thinker and man of religion, lead our ceremony. I was blessed to run into him again this year. We were very good childhood friends and he spoke of the "disease" of creativity in our home that always infected the children who came over to play.



In the middle of the ceremony, everyone lined up and lit a stick of incense and placed it in a bowl by the family altar. Some of the more enthusiastic guests got into line a few times and gave more than one stick of incense. Of course, I encourage this kind of precociousness in anyone.



Once our guests placed their incense in the bowl, they were asked to hit a gong. The effect was mesmerizing--so much incense, such a strong scent, so many sounds.



By the end of the ceremony, the room was filled with smoke.

It is perhaps something of a cliche to say that I have learned a great deal from the events of the summer, but it is also true. I struggle on this blog to determine how much to reveal and how much to keep private. To even blog about something so personal is not at all what I'd intended when I started all these entries, and I'm not sure I'll maintain this level of disclosure. But it felt inauthentic to carry on with trite stories about Asia or pithy observations on publishing when something so grave was going on in my own life.


Comments:
It's very kind of you to share this. Since I couldn't come out to join you, I glad to see so many other people did.
 
Lovely post, and lovely, authentic way to remember your father. Thank you for sharing this.
 
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