I’ve made a couple of exceptions to my vow of silence in the past three days. The first was to speak to my lovely neighbor and his dog when they saw me in the backyard and came over to talk. I decided that enforcing silence under those conditions would come across as rude or selfish, and that’s not at all the point of my silence.
Now I am back inside silence, and the grief continues.
I also broke my silence this morning for a few minutes to speak with Jon about the death of a close friend from Kansas City. This man, whose name was Thomas Zvi Wilson, not only acted as a poetry mentor to me in late 1999 and early 2000, he was also the vice president and chief financial officer at the company where my husband worked for five years.
One of my strongest memories of Tom is the day he sat with me, my mother and my husband’s family for more than eight hours in a hospital waiting room while my husband’s brain tumor was being surgically removed. Tom was there next to me, holding my hand, when — more than four hours into the surgery — I received a call from the operating room nurse saying they were having complications and weren’t sure if they would be able to remove the tumor because it was so close to Jon’s brainstem. Tom was also there when the neurosurgeon finally entered the waiting room, late into the night, with good news: He and a second neurosurgeon managed to remove the entire tumor, and Jon didn’t suffer from any cognitive problems as a result of the surgery.
Tom stayed in the waiting room that day without being asked and without any obligation other than what he saw as the obligation of friendship. We didn’t even know Tom planned to be there. He just showed up, which is what the best friends and best people do for you in times of need.
I remember the first time Tom visited our home. He saw a triangular vase on a side table, which I always positioned so a flat side was facing forward. “That’s all wrong,” he said when he saw the vase. I asked him what was wrong and he didn’t answer. Instead, he picked the vase up, rotated it slightly, then set it back down with one of the points facing forward. “Now it’s like the bow of a ship coming right toward you,” he said.
That’s what Tom’s spirit was like: the bow of a ship coming right toward you. He was intense and passionate in everything he undertook, including his artwork, his poetry and his professional endeavors.
I felt it was important to speak with Jon about Tom’s passing today despite my vow of silence, since he had meant so much to both of us. He actually passed away six months ago, but we only learned of his death this morning, so the news — and the grief — are fresh for both of us.
Now I am back inside silence, and the grief continues. No end to grief.