This weekend I returned home to go to Denise’s memorial service. It was long – about three hours and change – and we sat on the floor for the Hindi proceedings. There was a lot of religious activity I couldn’t understand, as well as brief talks by her relatives and friends and colleagues, as well as a slideshow, a video clip from the local news, and a video of her in an African dance performance. During the slideshow they played U2’s Twin Horsemen of Sheer Sentimental Power, “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For But I’ll Keep Looking Until One of Us Ends Up Crying.” Which ended up being me, as well as the other 100 or so people there. I defy anyone to watch a slideshow of a beautiful dead woman’s life and family and not cry. Maybe if they were playing “Baby Got Back” or something, but not “ISHFWILFBIKLUOUEUC.”
The memorial service did not bring closure as I would have hoped, but it wasn’t like picking a scab, either – it was more like stirring a pot. I don’t know what has bubbled up to the surface in this salty emotional jambalaya, but I feel as sad and angry and disconcerted as ever. I had been looking forward to this day as a chance to say goodbye and lay this tempest to rest, but in hindsight I recognize that this was a foolish goal.
That night I came home and changed the clocks before I went to bed – 11 to 12, 2 to 3, a jump in time that is erratic and inexplicable and in some ways unnecessary (just ask the good people of Indiana). Making this shift reminded me of how I wanted this process to be: leaping forward in one moment, a discrete change to produce a new and expected result. But this process (grieving, to name it) does not work like that.
Ironically, though, as easily and as suddenly as the clock moves ahead from 4 to 5, Denise slipped from life to death. In a way that does not seem right or logical or fair. And so today, as I looked at a variety of clocks reading an hour behind (in the car, in the café, in my apartment) I thought to myself, wrong time – as I was hungry or tired only to find it too early to eat, to sleep, to wake, to move, to confess, to explain, to forgive, it was the wrong time. As Denise has died and as the rest of us live in her wake it is still the wrong time.
Ten to eleven, eleven to twelve. Twelve to one.