Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Love You Make

Heart shape in verdant wetlands
The Love You Make

When I was in my twenties, I attended a workshop on disability theory and had the chance to learn from a counselor who was working with a woman dying of cancer. He told a roomful of us that paying attention to/maintaining closeness with someone who is actively dying requires only three things of us:

(1) They want to know they are loved.
(2) They want to know their life has made a difference.
(3) They want someone to go with them as far down the road toward death as is possible, until that point where they must proceed on alone.

Of course, to do these things, you must also deal with all your own feelings crowding in to claim the center of the room. But that's true in any number of situations.

I've never forgotten his lesson, and I've used it over and over again.

I didn't know Steve Gilliard. I'm a newcomer to his orbit. But I've learned, over the years, you can tell worlds about someone no longer with us by the quality of people who keep his memory alive -- the people who loved him, walked with him down his road, and now choose to sustain the difference he made in this world.

The folks at GNB who claimed Gilly, who wear his handprints on their skin, who mourn him today: They are the finest kind. Which says everything about who he must have been.

Today for a man I never met but whose steps beat down a path I follow, I will start my day by saying

Yisgadal v'yiskadash sh'mei rabbaw...