Wednesday, December 28, 2016

When the Water Meets the Light: Linda McClure, April 22, 1953-December 28, 2016

Photo copyright Aji, 2016; all rights reserved.

Joy is a lake.
Grief is a river.
You can lose yourself in one; be lost in the other.

As this day dawns, we are in the river: swept along in the rapids, sucked under here, dashed on the rocks there, buffeted and battered by grief.

As this day dawns, Lin is in her lake.

In our culture, we say that a person has walked on: It's an expression that deliberately robs death of its fateful power, one that recognizes the sovereignty of the spirit as it moves between the worlds, one that reminds us that our loved ones are not truly gone, merely traveled a distance beyond our current reach.

But to say that Lin has walked on misses the essential truth of her.

I have called her the water; her sister Laura calls Linda her North Star. Lin has always been a force of nature, elemental, both the water and the light. 

Laura asked me to write this, to give Lin one final gift of words. They are words of love, pulled deep from soul and memory, but they are inadequate to the task. It is impossible to capture the spirit of this woman we both loved in the flatness of black and white, of letters on a page, pixels on a screen. Lin has always been so much more.

I remember the way she wrote, the sharp distinction between her professional writing and public postings and her private conversations. The former were formal, organized and polished and to the point. The latter were the controlled chaos of joy in life, of the feeling that there is never enough time to say all that needs to be said, of words and thoughts and emotions bubbling up and boiling over and tumbling down in their own waterfall, capitalization an inconvenience, punctuation and sentence structure too confining, and I always, always understood what she was saying.

How do you write like you're running out of time . . . . 

And the words flow like water.

Photo copyright Linda and Laura McClure;
all rights reserved.

Her words were her passion, her life and her bond. She was a lawyer, yes, but not the stuffy sort. For her, the law was never about some ivory-tower ideal; it was about getting down into the trenches, putting your back into it, sweat and calluses and dirt under your fingernails. The law was only one tool in the larger toolbox labeled "justice," and she was willing to wield it as pick or shovel, trowel or sledgehammer, sword or shield in the service of what she knew to be right. Oh, she picked her battles, yes; we all have to do that. It's not a question of burning out, but of making a difference, and she always understood that battering your head against the wall did nothing but bruise your own brain, a brain better put to work strategically.

And I will never do her work justice, nor her words, because she accomplished so much more than I in far too short a time that, speaking of burning out, I will never hold a candle to her legacy.

But words are my own stock in trade, my own tool and bond and breath of life, too, and she is responsible for that as well. Linda had, among the gifts of words and water and enlightenment and light, another gift, a rare one indeed: the gift of acceptance, of taking people as she found them, of loving them, flaws and all, and appreciating who they were and the gifts that were theirs.

That is the essential gift she gave to me: not validation (she would never be so condescending), but acceptance. When my own world was too dark, when I could not even see myself, she saw me, and she told me that I had something to offer, something that was needed. Stories. Words

And the words seek the light.

But she was given the rawest of deals by fate, her great shining light and bubbling spirit cut short by willful malfeasance. By the misogyny she and I have fought our whole lives, personally, politically (but I repeat myself). By the dismissiveness woven into the very warp and weft of this culture, bred in its bones and encoded in its DNA. 

It has been just five weeks.

Five weeks and two days since the fateful message: "I don't know how to tell you this . . . ." 

I thought . . . I don't know what I thought. I thought she was going to say . . . what? That someone had outed her online? That she had to erase her social media presence to protect her job, to protect the work she needed and, more importantly, loved. And in that split second between that thought and my eyes dropping to the words, "her breast cancer's back" was the thought that flashed through my brain, the one I'd been avoiding, and then I read on.

And the tears flow like water.

Photo copyright Aji, 2016; all rights reserved.

Because it was worse. It was so much worse. It was nothing she ever deserved, because she deserved so much better, all the good things life has to offer, her reward for a life well-lived that needed to be lived for many decades yet.


That was the bottom-line prognosis. Months were . . . possible, but it was clear, between the lines, that she wasn't expecting that to be true. She had been dealt the worst of hands, one that could have been avoided had anyone actually listened to her, not dismissed her because she was a woman, done her the most basic credit of believing that she just might know her own body.

Wings and I were on our way to run errands, the most basic act of picking up supplies. It was pouring. 

We stopped for lunch, and I found myself weeping in the restaurant, openly, heedless of the people around us in the cold bright harsh overhead lights.

And I've never been good with ultimatums, and so I was already turning over in my head all the "things we can do," which of course meant absolutely nothing but it allowed my brain the freedom of a hamster run, distracting me by seeming to go somewhere even though it all ended up on the same damned wheel going nowhere.

And I thought of all the time I thought we had, all the things I wanted to say, needed to say, should have said . . . .

And then I took myself out of it. Because Linda needed to say what she needed to say, hear what she needed to hear, do what she needed to do.

She confided to me that she was worried. Not about dying per se, but about "the crossing-over part." Because she didn't know what to expect. None of us does.

And I know she wept.

And the tears shine in the light.

Photo copyright Aji, 2016; all rights reserved.

I know how Laura has wept, too. And I know of Lin's fears for her sister, this woman who calls her the North Star, because their income has been so greatly reduced these last five weeks, and because the cost of living where they live is unsupportable on only one income.

But Laura never hesitated.

Linda may have been her North Star, but Laura is the one who navigated these last weeks, steering them both through dark uncharted waters. Lin told me that she wanted to be sure, in the event of her body's decision to depart, that Laura was protected, supported — financially, emotionally, spiritually.

And that is Lin: always concerned for those she loves, no matter her own circumstances.

And so we have a obligation to her to fulfill her wishes on this point.

Lin's avatar:
Bash Bish Falls.

I keep saying that Lin is the water.

I'm not sure where or when that image first came to me, so long ago. I think it had to do with her bubbly nature, combined with her vocation to protect the earth, the world, life. After all, long before it became a social-media catchphrase, our peoples have always known that water is life

But I think it solidified, for me, when coding changes gave us the ability to post avatars, and Lin chose as hers a place of magic and memory, a place where she and Laura spent countless joyous summer days as children: Bash Bish Falls, in the Berkshires. Laura has told me of the mysterious beauty of the waters, soft like silk, seeming as though one is held, literally, in Mother Earth's own embrace. I can see Lin splashing in them now, as a child, and as the powerful woman I knew her to be.

And Lin's spirit flows like water.

Laura tells me that Linda asked her to promise one thing for this day, for the moment when her body could no longer fight the cancer that invaded her lungs and her bones, when it set her spirit free: If it should happen in the dark hours, Lin wanted to make her journey in the light.

It is light now.

And Lin is the light.

Photo copyright Aji, 2016; all rights reserved.

The red-tail joined me at prayer this morning, before I knew (although perhaps my spirit knew somehow). She sat, watching, just for a moment, at rest in the golden light of the willows, then leapt onto the winds.

And as this day dawns, when the water meets the light, I imagine Linda's spirit arising, Firebird-like, to hover for a moment, float gently upon the air . . . and then, with that giggle that was so wholly her, swoop and soar upon the currents as she races back to dive into the pool at the bottom of Bash Bish Falls, there to float and splash in a lake of pure joy.

Photo copyright Aji, 2016; all rights reserved.

When the water meets the light.

Cross-posted here.

Except as otherwise indicated, all content, including photos and text, are copyright Aji, 2016; all rights reserved. Nothing herein may used or reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the owner.

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