8400 Days

On this day and date, Thursday April 21, in 1988, I lost a friend to suicide.

I think it’s important to remember those who have gone: we who carry their memory ensure a part of them is still alive.

So, I always try to mark the date of her passing (as I do all those I have lost). Being a bit superstitious about days and dates, I consider anniversaries that fall on the same day to be particularly special. This year, the day and date coincide with that day twenty three years ago.

In reflecting on this, I realize that she’s been gone now longer than she lived. And I find, interestingly, that it has been exactly 8400 days that have passed since she passed.

I note this here not out of sadness, really. As I get older I am more and more reconciled with death as a reality. My readings in Buddhism over the past year, my experiences of multiple hard losses in the space of a year: all of these have made me find a new accommodation with death. I take very seriously the idea in Tibetan Buddhism that at the end of each day we die when we go to sleep, and at the beginning of each day we are born anew when we wake.

And so today I reflect not just on Kathy’s passing twenty three years ago: I reflect on the 8400 times I have died and been reborn since that day. I reflect on the unknown numbers of deaths and rebirths that await me yet in this form. I work to look forward rather than backward, for I have lived my life in a melancholy past for much of my life and want instead to live in a joyful present and a hopeful future.

I am listening to Arvo Pärt’s work for organ, Trivium I – III. Its sparseness has the proper reverent tone for a reflection like this. But, too, it has a delicate beauty that mirrors life. Beautiful, fleeting, passing in the blink of an eye.

In addition to keeping alive the memory of those who have gone, perhaps the greatest honor we can do them is to simply live and feel all that beauty that life has.

Perhaps the most poignant statement to that effect is made by Kevin Spacey at the end of American Beauty.

So today, I honor the memory of Kathy: I think back to her dark and blasphemous sense of humor, her beautiful dark eyes, the skirts and the hat she always wore, and I celebrate it all. And I celebrate the joy of my life, all the good in it, all the joy and pain and aliveness I have been gifted with these 8400 days.