Roger, one time on campus I think it was,
Someone called out to you,
You told us this story as if it was funny,
Yes, we are all “hey yous”, you knew that,
I think you liked being part of everything that was a whole.
No matter what we make of ourselves the glaciers teach us,
We are a blending of elements, of time, of temperature, of precipitation, of what is imposed upon is, like ancient rocks we become many kinds, formations, colors, textures.
Man of nine lives.
We knew you could go at any time
Lived as if you had forever,
Isn’t this how we mostly all live
As if there is no death
As if we will live, forever.
At least as long as Mountain Avens,
Scree-creeper Glacier Crowfoot,
Enduring flowers of Arctic-alpine lands
Now threatened by climate change, yes,
The shadow of death
Like a looming volcano
About to erupt,
Hovers over everything that is.
Even those of us with
Death always on
We tremble before it
But push away the inexplicable
Unable to weave our comprehension into the idea of
In these sacred bodies
With these amazing minds, these beautiful
Like two century old Moss Campion,
You too, cast a wide hammock anchored to the ground
By a single taproot,
The love of your life,
Best friend, wife, partner,
A woman equal to you in all ways,
So, I imagined,
I imagined I would have
Something like a decade
Stripping away your reserve,
Our becoming friends,
As I recognized your extraordinary soul from the first, as kindred.
Another highly sensitive empathic person who found freedom
Not inside the walls of a house of worship
Not in that kind of prayer to one God-like being, but out
Out in the relative wilderness, whose experience of
Forested places fed your boyhood soul in a relationship so significant
None other could have replaced it.
Our hearts grieve we have lost you.
You who took the road less traveled,
You who loved and lived life to the fullest.
Who one could never say died an unlived life.
What I saw, in you,
It was distinctly You.
A being overflowing with a rare and soulful gentleness,
Brilliance of seeing.
A scientist with a passion for music
An oral command of poetry that simply blew me away.
You were one of the last of these men and women trained to know what is of most import.
The Talmud says there are 903 kinds of death in the world.
I think maybe a an 81 year old glaciologist
With a heart condition
Falling and hitting his head on wild ice while skating
On an island in Maine
May be 904.
My love’s father,
Who did not fall into a 130-foot deep glacial crevass in Iceland,
An iceberg did not roll over upon your kayak in Greenland,
You were not eaten by a polar bear in Baffin Bay
Nor a grizzly in Alaska, instead
You began to slip through the crack between this life
And that which we cannot know,
But a mile from your Dear Deer Isle home.
I know you didn’t believe in otherworldly realms,
With your scientifically trained son of an engineer pragmatic mind,
That it was somehow just too scary for you to go there, to realms of spirit,
Yet I wonder how often these ways of knowing, of seeing,
Came to you in the silence of the spruce forest, the alpine hills of the northlands, while seafaring in the Atlantic,
The endless sacred places you ventured in your life,
As in the depth of the first night back from Bangor after you drew your last breath,
I felt/sensed/heard your presence below us in your workshop
The second night after you died, I heard steps on the stairs of The Little House,
And, my first day at home in the foothills of the Berkshires,
You sat, here,
In my living room
Still and observing,
In my green velvet chair.
I don’t know why you were here,
A place you’d never been,
With me, a woman so new in your life.
I know I’ve an imagination; I’m human after all,
But maybe this has been half me,
And half you,
You with your vast and deep heart and soul,
Still swirling around
Passing in and out of us all.
Roger, I’ve written
A death poem,
Another sort of love poem, to you.
Our brilliant resilient “hey you” man of the earth and luminous nebula
Who has now returned to that from which we all come.
© Susan Lynn Gesmer, Goshen Mass, July, 2021, Read at Roger’s Memorial, at The Unitarian Universalist Church, in Castine, Maine, on July 31st, 2021