It‘a been just over a week since I was informed of the passing of my dear friend, Steve Austin.
The intervening time has included a flood of tears, and then emptiness; a wondering of why I felt . . . blocked . . . from being able to grieve as I felt I ought. It has included guilt and questioning of my own friendship and commitment to the care of a person who made everyone he met feel as though they were the only thing that mattered.
It’s included hours of thought on the meaninglessness of life and death—that none of us are getting out of here alive, and that “death with dignity” is for the living.
I wondered at my own complete lack of interest in reaching out to the Beyond, to praying or asking some Divine source for answers or hope or protection. I wondered at this indifference and, if I felt any spiritual nostalgia, it was for the numbing effect that former practices such as church and prayer—and the false hope of knowledge about things unknowable—would have offered.
Lastly, this time has included fear for my own long history of self-harm ideation and the knowledge that no one ever “just gets over it.” For the knowledge that, no matter how loving or caring or cared for I am, there is a depth to depression that cannot be known or communed with, as the Jewish wisdom tradition says, “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.”
Anyway, last Thursday, I was invited by my friends on the Inglorious Pasterds Podcast to share in a night remembering Steve. You can listen to the episode here. My friend (and DCH Pod co-host), Lucas, played a heartbreaking song he wrote, and I shared a half-baked piece? poem? thing. You can read it here:
It’s the pause, the frozen silence, when the power goes out and all are suspended in sudden, deaf darkness.
First, there is Disbelief—surely it’s a mistake.
Then, Flailing conviction—it’ll come right back.
What happens next depends on your forethought: where is the flashlight? The candles? Matches? Any source of illumination to cut through the void.
Perhaps you sit in the stillness, immobilized by the loss of a light you had not truly considered extinguishable.
And now you find that some flames do not reignite, and you are left in the darkness, its immensities having swallowed you whole—a leviathan out of whom no psalms may be heard.
My friend was incandescent, effulgent; The alchemy of the incarnation he so desperately sought to embody— bathed in mess and holiness.
And he is gone.
A dynamo, willing hope into existence where despair had sought to live; crafting charity from the ragged edges of suffering souls.
Joy issuing from deep reservoirs behind eyes that have seen the Best and worst of one’s self and the world, and passed through both.
His flame burnt brightly, dispersing gloom, warming wounded hearts in a world grown chill, but it is gone.
To whom do I apply to make sense of this loss? What God will speak to me from the whirlwind?
Give me not your platitudes, your promises of the hereafter: senseless words from blind men, whistling fairytales in the dark.
I wish not for the cold ecstasies of heaven, but The warmth of a companion’s embrace; eyes crinkled in delight or shared grief
Give me back my friend, or else let a little of his light pass on to me. Then perhaps I may find the strength of will too offer it to others.