It is wonderful to see the sense of solidarity and support in the SUNY New Paltz English Department when a distinguished professor's wife at last succumbs to cancer's terrible power, and it is also exhausting to feel so much and be only borderline close to so many and to want so much for so many and to try to grow in spirit and in mind and to drive from depressed town to depressed town in the grace of another beautiful day's unvanquished light.
To walk into a small and not at all glamorous Catholic church perched atop a steep hill above a wide and flat river and hear the strong voice, full of grace and full of grit, filling the arches, the voice of the woman now deceased, whose body lays in the closed steel casket before you, is a singular sensation that is very hard to describe. That the voice that now fills the air of this church where the lovers and supporters, the friends and the followers, was recorded coming from her in the same room and at the same time where you stood the one day you met her only deepens the sense of mystery and loss. Had she gone on to live, would you have had opportunity more to know her, to eat the food of her cooking, to taste the garlic of her garden, to sing a duet or two with her, to laugh at her ways and mannerisms, to be moved deeply by the love she shared with her husband and the mythology they have created for themselves?
When they put the CD back on as the pallbearers put hands on the coffin, Stoney's recorded voice told a story about one of his many fights against Communist bullshit running a country and suppressing the religious lives of the people, made all the more poignant by the beautiful sermon the apparently Chinese priest offered, and her voice once again filled the small and humble Catholic Church, "one fine morning, when this life is over..." it was too much for almost everybody. I got choked up and I saw many faces crumpled in tears. Then Stoney's voice came forth in the present from the living man, the irascible sage, the beloved professor and teacher of so many, singing along with his own recording, his own past voice and the voice of his dearly departed and there was a strength, an endurance, that permeated and pulsed and carried us out once again into the waiting eternal day.