Garden of Memory

On the way to tonight’s Garden of Memory performance at the gorgeous Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, where Matthew‘s ashes live, got talking with Miles about the wisdom of using hay bales as housing construction material, started telling the tale of the three pigs. Got to the brick house part and he interrupted me: “Daddy, I know this story much better than you, so why don’t you just CALM DOWN and let me tell it.” He then proceeded to regale me with a version where the pigs lit the brick house on fire to keep the wolf away.

Inside the columbarium, hot day evening gold sunlight filtered through stained glass and ferns, reflecting against a thousand glass cubbies containing ashes and memories. Everyone knows someone who has died, this night is to remember. In small rooms: black and white films projected through gauzy sheets to cello accompaniment; a 20-ft. long 4-string guitar run through bank of effects playing alongside marimba, motion detectors speeding up and slowing down quotes from Rumsfeld after start of war; a gorgeous hand-built harp with built-in turntable, all hand-carved and elegant, computer-controlled bells at your feet going off in poetic non-rhythm, hand-cranked zither singly sadly from next tiny room, small hand-made banjo w/sticks and rubber bands plunking with choir of punk rock angels, Dan Plonsey playing two alto saxes simultaneously beneath a tarp like musical ghost, children’s musical toys scattered and free for audience participation. Outside, Bucky Balls rigged with aluminum tubes – climb inside and chime away.

Somewhere along the way, Miles becomes aware of what we were here to remember. Never thought I would be discussing death and dying so soon with him, but lately he’s been fascinated. Learns for the first time why his young friend has no father. Then asks if he can see pictures of Matthew dying. “No, but we can go home and see pictures of him alive.”

On the way home in the car: “Daddy, I just ripped a toot.” Laugh so hard I almost lose my lane.

One Reply to “Garden of Memory”

  1. Clara got really fascinated with death about a year ago too (age 4 more or less). She started asking all kinds of questions like, “If I die, will you be sad?” and “When I die, will I be still be able to dance?” Heart wrenching to answer these questions, but I figured learning about death is part of learning about life. After ten minutes of talking about all the things you can’t do when you’re dead, though, I often felt I had to change the subject–either that or choke up.

    In Clara’s case I think she picked up on death because of the pet silkworms they had at her preschool, which turned into moths, laid eggs, and then of course died, all in the course of a month. They do that every year and I suspect each year the kids come home talking about death and dying just like Clara did.

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