By Silvi Alcivar.
A few years ago i decided to write my own eulogy every year on my birthday. this year, rather than a party, i had a living funeral and so was actually able to read my own eulogy. it went something like this.
this is the year
this is the year someone asked me if i was walt whitman’s beard and i said i was what floated over black footed albatross wings just before the long flight of night turned morning and that poetry was the only way i had to try and get back to that until i found my death.
this is the year i found my death, not in body, but in need, in wanting to bury so much of who i’ve been and what has happened that did not, does not, will not ever serve me.
yes, this is the year i remembered the albatross wings and learned that sometimes i just need to go to the ocean to feel wind, to let it cleanse, to hear waves and welcome natural sounds replacing unnatural thoughts, if only for a while.
this is the year my years added up to thirty and the year i needed two hands to count how the fire of death raged—one, two, three, four, five, six flames. including, in just one quick moment of accident, a woman who was as mother to me as any woman not my blood could be. and in one, two, three, four, five, six, seven years fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting cancer, my own mother died.
so, this is the year i went to shores of pacifica, to just for a moment be cleansed, lifted by wind, to whisper over waves words i’ve said over and over again—rest in peace, rest in peace—but just as i stepped onto the boardwalk, the most vile and enormous seagull poo landed right inside my ear. despite the small children nearby, i screamed whatthefuck! gross! ohgod! eeeeeeeew! while also trying not to vomit.
thankfully, i was not alone and my partner cleaned me up. it’s not just that i couldn’t handle digging the disgusting out of my ear but also that so much shit had metaphorically landed on me i could not believe the luck of this giant egg of a poo now landing inside my ear. it took me all of about an hour to stop feeling ill and mad at the universe, to finally see the sea and enjoy what was there for me. oh look, arctic terns on the beach!
though my years had already taught me life takes a dump on you sometimes, this is the year i learned people are willing to help you clean up, that it’s okay to scream whyonearthdidthishappentome as many times as you need until you just start laughing at the absurdity and the incredible probability—of all people, in all the world, all of these things (death! loss! adult braces!) all of them happened to me?
yes, this is the year i asked and begged and pleaded and cried and sobbed and cried why? why? why? but did not have an answer until i heard my favorite poet survived a heart transplant and suddenly i felt inside my chest how all our hearts have been transplanted in sorrow and joy, joy and sorrow, fear and grace, grace and knowing that no matter where we are we can never be in any place except the skin we’re in; the body is a great machine; life a brilliant flame; and sometimes a thing survives a fire because of the warmth that survives us all.
yes, this is the year i truly learned life and death and grief and magic and wonder are all rhythms of the same breath, like that night in may when i feel asleep in the exact moments of my mother’s death, not knowing she was taking her last breath some 3,000 miles away, but knowing, precisely around midnight, i just had to lie down. i fell into the deepest sleep i’ve ever slept and woke to a voicemail telling me my mother died around 3 a.m., when accounting the difference from east coast to west, precisely the time i slept.
yes, this is the year i have said over and over again my mother is dead. and every time these word escape my lips i suspect no one wants to talk about it, about the only arms that have ever truly held me, by which, of course, i mean how i’ve always felt the heat of death in my life, the first fire: i was eleven and my father died of a heart attack while making chinese food in the kitchen.
yes, this is the year i decided to welcome the grief in the light of death’s flames, to cry when tears came close, to stop the production of work, to be alone for hours or days, to ask friends to come by because i needed hugs, and to tell people exactly how i felt when they asked how are you?
this is the year i discovered grace comes from actually telling people exactly how you feel. this is the year i watched grace come and carry off those who muttered an awkward i’m sorry and nothing else when i told them oh, i am really, really sad.
and this is the year grace came to me over and over again in the true embrace of those who could and wanted to look me in eye, hold my hand, and hold inside their own mouths all the words i could and could not say to lesson the grief, to let it pass, to feel it deep, to feel it deeper, to just be how i needed to be—fully feeling. yes, this is the year i learned that sometimes the most powerful tears are the tears you share with strangers.
this is the year it’s been confirmed i’m oh so imperfectly human and the year that grace has told me over and over again not to be afraid, to listen to what people have to say, to ask, to talk about feeling places, to sit inside them, to think, to learn, to feel, to cry, to laugh, to be really human, together, if only for a while.
this is the year, when getting back to work and feeling as though my skin might shatter from the fragility of feeling so much grief, that a stranger, unprompted and unannounced, offered me back to myself in a moment of unexpected togetherness. she said: i’m glad you’re here. and she didn’t let me look away until the light in her face told me she knew she meant it more than i could mean it for myself.
so this is the year i’ve vowed to tell myself what’s always been hard to say, hard to hear: i’m glad you’re alive. i’m glad you’re here. please don’t die soon. i love you. and this is the year i’ve vowed to say it, offer it, write it, think it, over and over again until its not a practice but a truth as real as life, as death, by which i mean, until it lives inside every breath.
and this is the year i want to tell you i’m glad you’re alive. i’m glad you’re here. i love you. please don’t die soon. because maybe you too need a stranger to help bring you back to you.