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Monday, July 7, 2008

For Friendship Assurance


Dr. Lester CN Simon

I didn’t know she was dead. I didn’t even know she was ill. There I was pulling out from the traffic lights when someone shouted out that one of our mutual school friends had died and had been cremated and her ashes were here. Friend turned into ashes? So much dust cannot be inhaled and digested in the twinkling of changing lights. Unlike the final call, green light does not mean go. It means proceed if able. Accidents are made of this.

Appropriately, I was passing by my primary school and immediately I imagined her going home from her secondary school in her tall, navy blue and white uniform with her straw hat coroneted with navy blue ribbon, walking as if the streets belonged to her. Never in a hurry, she always carried herself in a silent way with constitutive effortlessness. The dead tell tales.

In those days many of us from and around St. Johnston’s village and Sutherlands would walk to school and measure our times and paces regarding one another. Eventually most of us migrated to greener pastures in larger grounds; and contacts between us were as few and far between as the homecoming visits and distances apart. But on meeting up or calling up back home, we would talk about friends and family and work, in that order, and reminisce a bit about what we now call halcyon school days.

The last time I spoke to her was over the phone on a very busy day at work and I said I would pass by to say hello as usual. But somehow I just did not get around to it. So then, distal from the traffic lights, I recall her usually untroubled voice over the phone last year and my unkept promise to see her before she flew off to the far north again, when she would have told me that the dreaded cancer, the one most feared by all women, had sunken its claws into her. Driving along and trying to come to terms with so many decades crushed into seconds, I could only recall someone musing the results if one were to translate the Bible into dialect and realizing that the shortest verse would become, “Jesus put dung wan piece a bawling”.

Where did she go? Back to the beginning and back to a stream of consciousness that will sometimes and forever flow through us as if by happenstance; telling us to cherish friends and family through the little moments of nuggets we share; telling us to rest down the blinking phone sometimes and go and hug someone. It might just be the last, earthly embrace.

I can only imagine that before the beginning of the end, as would be typical of her, she reflected on hope for us, and found some solace for herself as can be found in the melancholy, contralto voice of Kate McGarry in the song, The Target (Miracles Like These).

In this song, we can regard this dreaded cancer as the target, ourselves as the archer and our dear, departed friend as one of the streams and rivers.

Can the target straighten the eye of the archer
And strengthen his arm
Can the target will the arrow into the center of its heart
If miracles like these are possible

Can the ocean comfort the streams and the rivers
As they journey home
Will the secret finally be told that they can’t be kept apart
If miracles like these are possible
If miracles like these are possible
There is hope for me to meet you Lord

May the soul of Tracelyn Thomas rest in peace.

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