Time Waits for No One

Personal Writings

             Marble Falls      Mi companera’s family has a reunion the day before Easter every year somewhere around Little Rock, Arkansas where her two brothers still live.  If she’s lucky, her sister is in Missouri and comes down.  Nieces and nephews are well represented.  Children are everywhere.  Family friends are part of the crowd.  There’s too much food and too little time, but everyone puts on their best manners and catches up.  This year is different, with a sudden change of the date to accommodate the total eclipse and using it as an attraction to pull more of her family into the fold by using the sun as an added attraction for the gathering.

Work calendars are unforgiving and aren’t as flexible, finding us in Arkansas, reunion or not, and me absent this year.  The added twist was a memorial for an old friend and comrade scheduled for Washington, DC.  Making it meant catching a 6AM flight from Little Rock and a 6PM rerun for a crazy day in the capitol.  I’ve missed a lot of weddings, funerals, and reunions jailed in the prison of calendar work time, so crazy as the schedule and travel might be, they are worth the extra effort, as time ticks away on all of our clocks.

Memorials are like reunions of shared communities, glued together by the dead.  A couple of years ago, I was lucky to be able to go to Missoula, Montana, for the memorial of another old friend and comrade, Jim Fleishman.  It was outside and the most moving part was his ex-wife and two daughters singing “Bring me a little water, Sylvie.”  That’ll stay with me.

This time we were inside at the AFL-CIO building across from the White House for Zach Polett.  I hadn’t been in the building for perhaps 15 years.  I saw old comrades I hadn’t seen in decades.  It’s good to see people, even as advancing age leaves its marks.  Memorials are intersections over shared connection with the dead with people coming from different directions touched by different experiences.  New things are discovered.  Different than work reunions, where some are on the list and some left off, a memorial summons people who share love and respect for the dead, submerge their history, and behave with forbearance.  All are welcome and invited.

People who organize memorials are saints.  It’s not easy.  For speakers, the balance wheel is hard as well, as they speak for the dead to an audience of the living.  Are they serving the community or the departed?  People want to celebrate being alive, even as they are brought together by the deceased.  A caveat I always keep in mind is something I read somewhere about funeral speeches too often being more about the speaker than the person mourned.  Hats off to the organizers and any who can walk this tightrope well.

When we had to run out immediately to catch a plane, I didn’t hesitate.  Talking to Zach’s caregiver earlier at the airport and apologizing in advance for having to leave at the closing, she said, “Zach would want you to get back to work.”  One of his sons had ended the program with a last-minute remark that essentially said, “Don’t mourn, organize!”

And, so we will. Time waits for no one.