Thursday, April 8, 2010
(how do I mourn? I write.)
A young man named Hans Petersen, 2 1/2 years ago on the top of Bald Hill, picked up pebbles and arranged them into a sacred word - φως - light, in Greek. I had just begun my Greek studies but I knew it meant light, which was the first word (in English) I'd spoken as a baby. And I knew, then and there, that I'd like this crazy guy at least as much as our mutual friends told me I would.
Hans and I shared many more a hike, a meal, an evening of song... often with long silences between, which were usually broken by long self-deprecating voicemails he'd leave me by way of apology. He broke our longest silence not more than a month ago, all but showing up on my doorstep like an orphan child not expecting to be taken in -- I took him in -- fed him -- caught up on life. I'd been gone for a year in Oregon. He was doing better than he had been, overworking on his job installing solar panels, but enjoying it, finding a new balance in life, putting one foot in front of the other. It was good to reconnect.
Yesterday he fell off a roof (on the job) and died. Too young, too vibrant, too alive for this to make any sense. I don't know how to mourn his death. But I do know how to celebrate his resurrection.
I hiked that same hill tonight and found pebbles to write his sacred word -- φως -- LIGHT. I didn't do it as carefully as he did... I could never be as meticulous as he was about little things. He'd place every pebble with a pointillist's love, where I scrape and pile with big painterly strokes. But I wrote it for him, and stayed there until the sunset light slipped off the pebbles and made its way to the ocean.
A hymn about heaven tells me of "sweet fields arrayed in living green, and rivers of delight." They were around me up there -- I could almost touch them myself.
A random fact about Hans: he really loved being naked (and in all kinds of settings... where you don't expect to encounter naked people...) He'd skinnydip at the drop of a hat, and apparently got in trouble with the police in Oberlin OH for this alleged crime.
I do hope he's skinnydipping in rivers of delight right now. I do hope St Peter's not too strict about the white robe thing. Actually, it's not a hope, I'll call it a prayer, and a certainty. That having flown in all his broken beauty to a place where there is no sorrow or sickness, his spirit is reveling in everything it touches, with that open-hearted awe that captivated all of us here.
We'll miss you, Hans.
See you there.