Bring out your dead.

You might say the sky was crying during the morning commute. Paul McCartney was crying out “The Long and Winding Road” on the car radio. Some memories from years back replayed in my head, and before I knew it, dammit, I was crying too…

My daughter’s teacher recently covered Helen Keller, and my daughter developed a keen interest in Helen Keller and braille. This inspired me to order a braille stylus, slate, and paper from Lighthouse for the Blind in the City.

Braille slate and stylus

So there we were with the equipment and supplies. And there she was with her blind grandfather (my father) up there in Washington. The rest was, as they say, academic.

She didn’t know what to write. Was his birthday coming up? No. We looked at the calendar. It was Presidents’ Week. Happy Washington’s Birthday? No. I knew of one date that would be on Grandpa’s calendar that she had never heard of. I hesitated, then I told her, “why don’t you write Happy Ayyam-i-Ha.” This was a reference to an upcoming event on the Baha’i calendar, and I explained it to her.

I punched out some braille for Grandpa as well. I chose a passage that he had recited many times when I was young. No doubt you have heard it as well:

Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Yep. You guessed it. That there’s Shakespeare!

Brief candle…

I may be the rebel of the brood, but I am not the black sheep. That honor goes to my oldest sister. She left home on a mission for the Baha’i Faith when I was a young boy. Shortly thereafter, she married another young Baha’i, but other than having a wonderful baby daughter, it came to naught. They divorced, and she never had another legitimate marriage. She did marry twice more, but neither was a Baha’i marriage. Mom and Dad disapproved of my interest in going to visit her, but they held out a hope that she and her husband might someday have a Baha’i ceremony.

I didn’t see much of Duska until I graduated from college, a couple years after I privately left the Baha’i Faith. She lived and worked near Yosemite, and I was soon doing the same. I took a bus up to visit her, and after that backpacked from Wawona to the Valley, and got a ride to my new workplace.

Over the years, Duska and I developed a new kinship, and she bonded with my wife and children as well. Duska and I would sometimes sit and laugh about how our parents would avoid us. They would drive within a couple miles or so of my house when visiting a doctor or the Bosch Baha’i school, and they had been avoiding Duska for years. Duska and I would, in contrast, go well out of our way to visit our parents, in spite of our differences, and in spite of the treatment we might get during the visit. There would be constant reminders that religion came first, and we often found ourselves upstaged by what was termed “our Baha’i family”. We laughed it off. We really did.

The Baha’i religion almost never came up, but when it did, you can bet that we laughed.

Duska got some free time a few years back, and decided to fly up to Washington to see the folks and family. She stayed the night with us, and made up a game that she played with our baby boy. It was simple: she would look through the window of a Fisher Price house and say “Hi!”, and he would giggle a “Hi” back.

I was a little distracted at the time—I don’t know what about, but I managed to take her to the airport.

She spent the next night at our parents’ house, and suffered from a massive brain hemorrage in the morning. I was able to speak to her again, but the doctor said she could not have heard me.

Mom made certain that Duska had a Baha’i memorial and burial. Mom said she had once asked Duska if she considered herself a Baha’i, and that Duska had responded in the affirmative. I didn’t want to fight about it, but I was horrified. I understood: Duska was still her daughter. Could I blame Mom if she was in denial?

Still, anger was heaped upon grief: what about the Duska that lived and died? What about her? Was anybody going to remember her?

Our neighbor told me, “Dan, the dead don’t care.”

I don’t suppose they do. But regardless, I still miss you, sister. Yeah, sometimes I see you. At the filling station. I was parked in line behind that tan Ford Escort you used to drive, and I could only watch. You got out, filled up, and then you drove away.

I can see lots of things, but that doesn’t change a thing.

One comment on “Bring out your dead.

  1. Mavaddat says:

    A touching recollection of an apparently beautiful relationship between you and your sister, Dan.

    Religion becomes most abhorrent when its anxieties impinge on the lives of those dearest to us by obscuring and denying whatever convictions that do not fit into the categories of religious piety. My parents still struggle to acknowledge the sincere conclusions my conscience despite the fact that they personally can see no harm in them.

    It is a truly shameful thing that religion encourages us to seek pleasuring the supposed will of an invisible deity above regard for our fellow humans.

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