I have this image of dying as viewed from outer space. The beautiful earth, blue and green and brown, spinning slowly against the black, and every time a person dies it’s as if a spark is being thrown from the planet, as the person who’s died escapes the bounds of gravity. Earth hurls them back into space – we are all stardust, after all – where they settle in the wake of earth’s trajectory for the rest of time. And earth, like a giant lumbering spinning ship, heaves on and leaves them behind. Time stops. That’s where you ended up.
Sunday afternoon, cold and raw, was Debbie Geller’s memorial service. Debbie, a dear friend, died a year ago after a savage, shocking battle with cancer. One month, from diagnosis to the grave. Debbie was an incredible force of nature, wildly talented, highly accomplished (and with a long trail of documentaries and books left as evidence), and a cherished friend to a multitude of people who, we discovered after she died, largely didn’t know each other at all. In fact, we didn’t know that most of the others existed! Debbie had many lives wrapped into one, perhaps more so than most of us.
So Debbie ended last December, and Sunday was - upon reflection - the last official ceremony of her existence on this earth. She’s one of those sparks shed by earth, fixed forever in the wake.
I often think of how there are two groups of people – you and me and everyone we know right now and see on the streets, who climb trees and work in offices and sip wine, laugh and battle. In other words, the people who are alive at this very moment. And then there’s everyone else – absolutely everyone else. The vast tribe of the dead, everyone from Nebuchadnezzar to all the fisherfolk in 18th century Bengal to the trench-dead of WW1 to my grandparents and to - now - Debbie Geller. Gone. Perished. The living are an aching meniscus at the front of history, feeling our way like the tentacles of an anemone scuttling along the ocean floor.
I wish Debbie were here still. To see such an important moment for sanity, progressive humanity, decency. She deserved this.