Tuesday, January 26, 2016

26 Days Later, It Doesn't Get Easier, But It Becomes Clear The Importance of Love & Joy @fairfieldu

With thanks to Dr. Beth Boquet
for this photo (Facebook)
On the last day of December, 2015, I wrote a letter to Gisela Gil-Egui expressing the sadness I felt for the tragic loss of her life in Miami.  Yesterday, Fairfield University hosted a celebration of her life at the Quick Center and paid remarkable tribute to her, her husband, her brother, and her mother. Gisela magically influenced the lives she encountered each and every day.

I try not to use "magic" too often because the scholar, skeptic, and curmudgeon warns me to be cautious of the word. But that is what her life radiated in all the spoken, sung, and recited tributes shared at the service. It was pure magic that she and her husband found one another, magic that she chiseled her way into an interview with Robin Crabtree, magic what she brought  her students and colleagues such happiness, and magic that she fused teaching/research/and service.

I did my best to hold it together.

The Quick Center was packed. The video presentations were spot on. Seeing so many friends in one location - some with speaking roles - was a lot to take in at once. I've been playing emotions low, since arriving to campus and given the untimely death of Cody Thomas this week, too, I am smart enough to know I need more space to process. Yet, walking into the theater, seeing the people, and witnessing the production behind all the memories, simply put me in awe and admiration. It became very clear two things matter most in life: Joy and Love.

This is a follow-up post to the one I wrote at the end of last year when news was sent to our emails about Gisela's death. This is written to say "thank you" to all who were involved in yesterday's healing. I appreciate the sharing, the humor, the tears, the stories, the talents, and the kinship provided. Ubuntu.

This is life.

As I'm writing, the puppy is sprinting by my feet throwing an elk antler at my toes trying to get me to play. After months of buying $6 toys that she tears up in a matter of minutes, I finally invested in a $16 calcium deposit dropped by some moose (elk? caribou?) waltzing in Canada. So far, so good. It has lasted at least 5 days and there's barely a mark on it.

My point?

There's beauty in innocence and predictability. We know change is inevitable and that tragedy is life. It's hard when it impacts us, but the world still spins and the tides roll in an out. I know, for sure, the puppy will simply want to play until she tires out, as it is routine and canine nature.  I'm likely to give in and wrestle with her, too (that's human nature). And I know I'll find strength from the losses.

I'm teaching Katherine Applegate's Home of the Brave this semester, a poetic novel written for young adults. It is about a young man who relocates from Sudan after he witnessed so many lives lost in the civil conflict. He's in a strange country with new temperatures, customs and challenges (including how one washes dishes). All he wants is to herd his cows.

The epilogue of the book shares an African proverb,
A sandstorm passes; the stars remain.
For Kek, the young man, patience brings about rewards and serenity. Once again, I'm looking for  patience to see in the stars both guidance and hope (a similar glow as the magic Gisela had).

This too shall pass.

So, here's to joy and here's to love.

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