yoga class the other day, my teacher had us stretch out our arms and tilt them
like wings. “Fly like an eagle,” she said.
Instead of feeling
expansive, I was waylaid by tears as I flashed on the great reach of Noah’s arms
straining to touch the walls in our breakfast nook or spanning the width of the
goal in water polo. Willowy, boyish arms that grew muscles overnight, it
seemed, the summer before 9th grade when he got up every day at 5am for
swim practice. Long, lanky arms that paddled out into the surf, carried sailboats, juggled clubs behind his back for hours. Sore arms that
craved shoulder rubs whenever we watched a video. Wild arms that he threw all
over the dance floor at college. Open arms that wrapped friends and cousins in
tall teenage boys stood on either side of me and perched their elbows
companionably on my shoulder; I could have stayed that way for hours. Ben (6’10”)
still perches like that sometimes but there’s no little brother (6’4”) to
balance the other side.
choke up reading the suicide note of a kamikaze pilot in Ruth Ozeki’s novel, Tale for the Time Being. “I know you
know my heart,” the pilot writes to his mother, “and will not judge me too
when he was young; not in his last few years and definitely not in his last
moments. Unless his heart hadn’t really changed and I can trust my intuition. This
is my task now: to try to plumb Noah’s heart with every memory and dream, every
hunch and scrap of information. And in doing so, to let go of judgement.
purpose of death is the release of love,” wrote Laurie Anderson in a tribute to
her partner, Lou Reed,
and in the film, Heart of a Dog. Did she mean a mystical emitting of love by the dead
in the moment of dying? Her words remind me of the outpouring of love by the
living that’s palpable at funerals and memorials, hovering over the crowd.
Those who take their lives can’t imagine the love that surges up
in their wake. Too often, they kill themselves because they feel worthless and
think they’re a burden to others. I can’t bear to think that Noah may have felt
If those of us left
behind are to take any greater purpose from the suicide of our loved ones, let
it be to replenish our reservoir of love and release it out into the world,
again and again.