Saturday, May 13, 2017

For the Better. Forever.

Little sweetheart, we're working on the live Of Love and Loss and at its center is something we call the "Choral Text Passage". It's largely based on my memorial speech for you but delivered by both Jason & I (and later, Kim) in turn and unison. There's a part of it - where I was talking about your acting - that I've wanted to rewrite, so this morning I had a go at this. It's below. I'm not sure how I'm going to break it up but this is the new section. Thinking of you, always... 

...This isn’t the main thing, so I don’t want to linger, but I have to say this: she was the truest artist I’ve ever known. Breathtakingly gifted. When we met, she was playing - inhabiting - the central role in "Tir na nOg" - a play about a young girl in the West of Ireland who grows to adulthood and further adventures in Dublin. She burned that stage to cinders every night. For six weeks. With three broken toes. She’d careened barefoot into some stair unit backstage during a quick change in the middle of the Final Dress and half her left foot swelled up and went purple. Her doctor told her she’d have to quit the run. Not a chance. He didn’t know who he was dealing with. Neither did the audience. Not unless they happened by the stage door after and saw her striding away in her short air fracture boot.

When she joined this band, everything changed. For the better. Forever. I loved writing for her and she was the best musician I’ve ever known. Her vocals, like every part of her, were connected directly to her soul. And she had total telepathy. I’d play something on guitar and she’d meet me there the moment I arrived.

One more thing about her acting. A year after we first met and became inseparable, she got a job, down the coast in Carmel, doing “The Blue Room”, David Hare’s reworking of “La Ronde” where two actors, one male, one female, play all ten parts. Good actors, great ones, are supposed to be adept at one of two things - transformative character work, disappearing into a role; or the deepest kind of emotional connection, shocking us with their naked honesty. Summer could do both. Simultaneously. She did that night. In the round. A foot from the audience where you can’t hide anything or fake it. I sat there between Linda - her mom - and Coy - her friend - and I think they literally had to pick my jaw up off the floor. I couldn’t move after. She was that good. She is like the Supermoon - once in a generation...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Seventh Word

Little sweetheart, with some film loops and the audio from the Good Friday remarks I wrote for you, I made a little video. It's here. Love you forever...

Monday, May 1, 2017

Keep The Faith

Little sweetheart, I think I told you that I was asked to write and deliver remarks on Good Friday at that little church I go to sometimes. They asked me each of the last three years. This year, apparently, they also recorded them. So, they can heard and/or downloaded here. Love you forever.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

In The Very Air

There are, as ever, so very many things I want to tell you, little sweetheart. There doesn't seem to be enough time in the days and, to be honest, I don't always make the best use of the time I do have.  Please help me stay close and listen for your guidance, won't you, my little sweetheart? I long for your presence and example.

So, there is much to do. We're working on the live Of Love and Loss - Kim sending her readings of the narration I wrote, me writing guitar to go under it, Jason and I practicing and recording, me again mixing and beginning to map out the visuals. So a lot to do there. And the memoir! Much much work to be done.

But just now I want to pause to say that spring has finally arrived in NYC these last few days and it seems to heighten both my sense of your presence and my terribly keen longing for you. I've come, as I think I've told you, to listen to birdsong, stopping whatever I might be doing, quieting myself and bending my ear and spirit toward your own. I know you do everything you can to signal your eternal presence to me through these mortal barriers that hold me hostage. I must heed your every whisper, every signal. Please help me to remember and do exactly that, my love.

And as it's spring, very decidedly today, I've all the windows open. And somehow, miraculously, I can intuit, can feel you in the warm breeze, in the very air. It's so familiar it makes me cry.

How achingly I miss you. How desperately I need to strengthen my faith, heed your call, know that you are near, nearer than I can imagine, and live out whatever may be left of my mortal days, honoring you as best I can, and finally to join you.

Please let it be soon, my love. Please help me. Please forgive me. Please please be with me. Help me be the man you so selflessly were moulding me to be. Yours.

With all my love forever to The Forever.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

April 25th

Little sweetheart, it's my birthday and I am, of course, thinking of you so very much. Below are two pictures of you & I on my birthday in Davis in 2009. Remember? You took me to see DCfC in Sacramento and made me some super complicated and utterly delicious cupcakes. We had several days all to ourselves there. It might've been the best three days of my life, but with you, it was hard to choose. In 2011, we had tickets to see Low in Philly and were meant to be in the studio that weekend working on the new Bipolar Explorer album. Instead, I was giving the speech (also) below at your memorial. My birthday will, fittingly, always be entwined with you, my darling, as is my life and heart and soul. Not without sadness and longing but also with gratitude that you ever found me and faith that you are watching and guiding and will come and collect me the moment that heaven allows. With all my love forever, little sweetheart.

I have a thousand things to say about Summer Lindsay Serafin. A thousand thousand. I’ll be saying them and thinking them and writing them down every day for the rest of my life no matter how brief or prolonged that may be. But today...Just for today...

She liked to sleep. That’s not what I wanna talk about but it has to be said. She loved sleeping. I’m listening to one her voicemails of late and she says she is so excited by the prospect of sleep. That “it is like (her) mouth is watering for sleep”. She says that. It’s good. I sometimes sleep now and just want to stay. I hope I might find her there.

It’s impossible, really. Impossible that I met her. That she “found me” she liked to say. I’m not from around here. It’s impossible that she lived in a place called “The Inner Sunset”. Impossible that she lit me up, this shining person, and held me, safely, in her orbit. Impossible. All of it. And today. Just impossible.

She was a terrible driver. Even Mike said so. I loved her battle-scared Blue Prius. The passenger side mirror in a kaleidoscope thousand pieces, dangling by a cable. A taillight busted. The bumper sagging. No, no she fixed that. The back seat full of boots and sunhats and coconut water. And tissues. She left a trail of tissues everywhere. Like Hansel & Gretel. You could follow it to its source and eventually find her.

She was – words, not for the first time, fail – an unearthly beauty. An ethereal beauty. And shockingly, entirely earthbound. Preternaturally present. She ate up life. With both tiny perfect fists. Ate it up. Actually, she ate quite beautifully. Do you remember that? Cutting and balancing petite bites, transferring them knife to fork with quiet elegance. Even bananas she ate like that. Seriously, I have a picture. I got her to try dark chocolate. She wasn’t a fan at first. She broke little bits off into tiny pieces. I looked over and she was sprinkling Equal onto them one at a time.

She was the dearest dearest girl. Nothing phony about her. If you got to know her at all, your heart just broke in two the moment you realized, the moment you saw her, really saw her and then surged with love. For her. This amazing girl.

She didn’t do anything to make it difficult, but I can understand how someone could think she was hard to get to know. She was friendly but never facile. She wasn’t frivolous. She was serious. She was fun, god, was she fun. She loved people – and this is what I wanna get it, at long last – she loved people and she took them seriously. Not everybody’s up for that. More fool they.

I’m circling the runway here, I know, but there’s one more thing I gotta say before I bring it in – she was a breathtakingly gifted actor. I met her doing Edna O’Brien’s Tir na nOg, Chris Smith’s last play at The Magic. She played the central role, a country girl in the west of Ireland who grows to young adulthood and further adventures in Dublin. And she burned that stage to cinders every goddamn night. With three broken toes. If you live here and you go to the theatre and you did not see her in that, I don’t know what to tell you. I really don’t. A year later, right after she was in Rock n Roll at ACT, she went down to Carmel to do David Hare’s The Blue Room directed by Ken Kelleher. I sat there between Linda and Coy and I just thought “god, what am I doing?” I have a perfectly healthy ego. I’m from New York. But I have never seen acting like that. She is like the supermoon. Once in a generation.

She loved her work. And she was good at it. But she had a higher calling. To love. And, yes, that is what I want to talk about. Because she told me. She told me she knew why she was here and that was to love. She was filled with love. So much love. And she wanted more than anything to share her love with others. She told me that. And there is absolutely no doubting it because you could not have a better piece of luck in this world than to have been blessed enough to have been loved by her. She was like that device they use in open heart surgery that cracks your chest open and holds it gaping, wide, so you can be healed. That fragile little muscle, scarred and scared and on the verge of shutting down, giving out, giving up, held now tenderly in her expert hands, beneath her loving, healing gaze.

Her love was tenacious, vigilant. Unflinching. I met her three years ago and she quickly became the center of my life. She didn’t drop people. If you were in, she was in. Even if you faltered because nobody had ever shown up for you before like this, she was on you. Checking in. Reminding. Different this time. Not goin’ anywhere. She hated talking on the phone but we talked every day, often for hours. For three. She knew everything about me. Things I never tell became hers.

And she made sure I knew her as well. Her gratitude, her pride in a happy childhood. Loving, devoted, would-take-a-bolt-of-lightning-for parents. Her epic struggle from the age of 5 to live. Ryan’s gifting her a kidney and the double organ transplant that saved and changed her life. The unfathomable loss of Jesse. She carried every piece of her past with pride and love and honesty into every room, knowing exactly who she was, like no one I have ever known. Or ever will.

God, how I loved her! She’s right. She did find me. I clung to her. “Like a liferaft” I told her she was, “to a drowning man.” She smiled and said, “you’re not drowning anymore.”

When my mom died last year, I was in London. I got the news in the middle of the night. I was alone. I called Summer, eight hours behind, here. When I told her, she burst into tears. And then told me to get on Skype. “I want to see you drink an entire glass of water”, she said. “And lie down. And try to sleep. I’ll be right here at my computer watching you. I will watch you while you sleep.” She watched over me like an angel, a cyber angel, and when I woke she was there with Linda getting me on a plane to New York and then on to Michigan. Then Summer flew herself to Detroit and waited in the airport all night to meet my plane. And was at my side every day for a week while I buried my mother. Who does that? Serafin love. Irrepressible, irreplaceable girl.

“When I met you”, she said “you were so wounded, so hurting, so sad – I just wanted to love you, to heal. But I never dreamed”, she added, “I would ever get so much love in return.” Who does that?
I need her. I am broken. That is as it should be. It’s supposed to be hard. She cracked my chest open. It’ll have to stay that way. Because who would go back? But it’s hard.

Summer, incredibly, had an answer for that, I think. All this is preface. She’d want to have the last word. So, I’d like to share that. It’s her Christmas card from a couple of years ago. She was in Boston doing Rock n Roll at The Huntington. It closed just before the holidays and she came to New York to exchange gifts with me. She made me promise to wait until December 25th to open it. So, I took it on the plane with me, waited til Christmas morning and opened it at my Mom’s. The gift was a beautiful blue and grey scarf she knitted. There was also a card. It’s to me but in a way it’s to us all. Everyone of us who she loved. Everyone of us who love her. And feel so lost. Because life is so lonely, the world so empty and wrong without her.

“My Dearest Michael,

I’ve been working on this in the green room and backstage since we came to Boston. I’d drape it around my neck to keep warm while knitting in the dark of the freezing wings. The cast is decisively in favor of the striped color combination.

It’s Christmas day, and I’m wearing my pajamas. I’m in my P.J.’s even if you’re reading this when the sun has set. Ryan is making another bourbon and coke even if you’re reading this as the sun rises. My Dad is reading aloud shocking statistics about religion or politics, my Mom is spraying perfume on the dog, and me...? I am missing you. Maybe one day we’ll spend Christmas together.

Coy says “You are where you’re meant to be”, and while I like that idea, I know, far too well, what it feels like to be in a world where everything feels wrong – where everything is wrong. You have also been to that place. And as the world spins on its own axis, people are lost in their own needs and trials. We falter blindly, and strive endlessly. 

But no matter where you are, whether you should be there or not, and no matter who is present... know that you are a treasure in your own right. If the chest is buried, the key is lost, or the map stolen, it doesn’t matter; it doesn’t change the fact that it’s inside you. I just see what’s there. You carry it with you. What’s hidden can always be found.

I love you.

Your Gingersnap, Summer"

I love you, too. Love you forever. Goodnight, little sweetheart.

April 25, 2011
San Francisco, CA

Michael's memorial address for the love of his life, Summer Serafin.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

On Accepting "My Fate"

I’ve been meaning to try to articulate something for sometime, little sweetheart, and I’m probably not going to get it all down in just one go but here’s a start.

It’s about having to - for the best, I guess - accept my fate. Stop struggling. It’s a funny thing to say, isn’t it? Sort of antithetical to our culture of “overcoming adversity” or whatever. It sounds like giving up. Maybe it’s really more about giving over but either way most people don’t like the sound of it at all. It makes them uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable, too, but for a different reason.

I have to be careful where I say it and to whom. A few years ago I posted a word of despair - literally, a single word - on my Facebook page and some people I barely knew called 911 and had me taken away. Entirely against my will. They held me overnight and if I hadn't been seeing a psychologist at the time - indeed, been able to give them her number and tell them I had my regular appointment in two days time - they would have committed me. Up until then I thought things couldn’t possibly become worse. But I was wrong. I could also have my liberty and self-governance taken away.

I have to be careful. The world wants people like us to just go away and if we don’t do that on our own - just shut up and stop harshing their buzz with our grief, with our mourning - they’ll use the authorities and put us away. That’s how frightened people are of the broken. Our bereavement is so scary, ostracizing us isn’t enough - they’ll gladly lock us away. The normal people all have their model for how we should be dealing with things. They like the stories of people who’ve moved on. Especially if they’re famous. Unsurprisingly. This country worships celebrity nearly as much as it does the military.  They like the stories of people - they usually write books - who overcame their grief and married someone else, had kids, traveled the world, posted happy new photos of themselves in exotic locations on Instagram. They point to those people who “got on with their lives” and  tell us we should be more like them. Or they just stop talking to us at all and call it “tough love”.

Everyone needs their rationalizations. I knew that well before I was broken by your tragic passing. We all do. Even me. Even you. But I don’t think we should have the temerity to call it “love” when what we’re doing is making it easier for ourselves, excusing ourselves with distance from the problematic and troubled people we once called friends. We can’t take their heartbroken-ness. We can’t take it on. It’s too disturbing. So, we cut them loose. I get it. I understand. I don’t blame them. Well, not too much. But it helps to accept the absence if somebody doesn’t call their withdrawal an act of love. Everybody needs their rationalizations. I get it. But keep that part to yourself, ya know? Right, little sweetheart? We get it. But do they really have to say it aloud? To us? Maybe they do. It’s all very frightening.

Anyway, I have a different take on it. Giving up, I mean. This was a little bit in that Good Friday address I wrote and gave that I told you about, little sweetheart, although I didn’t come right out and say it. It’s not going to get better. Not in this life. And I have to accept that.

I also have to confess that a part of me for all this time has secretly and sometimes not-so-secretly thought that someone would swoop into my life and save me. Like you did. And so incredibly unselfishly, that they would accept my endless devotion to you, honor that - not make me scatter the ashes of your memory and our love at Burning Man or at the edge of The Dead Sea on some global gallivant to be shared on social media showing how good we all are doing now in moving on and please subscribe to the podcast. That they would hold me but would let me hold you, too. It’s more than just saying there can never be another you, little sweetheart. I know now there can never be anyone but you. I suppose I’ve always known that, but I do get lonely. Of course I do. I miss you. I just have to embrace that. I’m going to be lonely. It’s not going to get better in this life. No one’s swooping in. And that could never be. There can never be anyone but you. I knew that but something inside me still yearned. I have to finally put out that light. And keep yours going forever. Until that day when I may join you. I’m going to be lonely. I’m going to be sad. And this is where it turns…

I spend time sometimes, far too much time, sometimes, on Tumblr. Its images have sometimes given me comfort and I’ve actually gotten to know the work of many of the artists we’ve worked with over the last five albums by discovering them on the site and then establishing communication. But a lot of other memes float by, or “tumble” by, if you will. One of them that I have steadfastly resisted is this one: "Everything is Temporary” .

I don’t want everything to be temporary because I don’t want you to be temporary. I want you to be eternal. And I have faith and believe that you are. But that meme makes me bristle. I don’t want you to be temporary because I don’t want you to be dead. Indeed, I almost never use that word. Even now, I froze up before I actually typed it. My fate, such as it is, isn't the only thing I’ve not been able to accept. Far more potently, I have never been able to accept yours. I won’t say the word. I won’t admit your mortality. Even in the earliest days after, I said aloud more than once that I wouldn’t accept this to be your story. That you are more - ARE, not were - than your tragic passing.

I think to a large degree, that drives my writing, of, for and about you. Not only my testament to you, wonderful you, and our great blessed love. Not only my devotion and my faith that you are eternal, that love is forever, that I will join you. But also that you are not your earthly story - especially your mortality - alone. And certainly that that is not the prism through which we should see your life or remember you, as a girl who died tragically and young. I’ve been at pains to resist that all this time and I suspect I will continue to bristle at the suggestion.

But there’s also something comforting in the “temporal”. I always just read that and reject it because I know and I need to know that you are not temporary. But if I accept that the temporal is temporary - that this great loss is only a separation precisely because you are eternal, because our love is eternal, that I will pass because this state of existence is temporary but that you ARE, we ARE, love IS, then it can be a comfort to accept. Because it won’t be long. It won’t be long until Forever.

Like I say, this is a new idea - not all of it, just the bit about my “fate” (maybe there’s a better word…) and accepting it. I’ll try to think of it some more and tell you. Please be with me today, won’t you, my love? Let me know you are near. Help and guide me to you. With all my love, Summer, all my love…

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday

Little sweetheart, this morning I was asked to write and speak at that little church I've told you about for their Good Friday services. They ask seven speakers to each compose a reflection upon one of the seven "last words" of Christ. They are the last seven passages He speaks before His death. They've asked me the last two years, as well. This is my third time and I always write about you - the great gift of love you are and gave of yourself to me, how very much I miss you, and how I long with all my heart and soul to be with you again and forever. Below are my remarks given just a few hours ago. I love you with all my heart and soul, little sweetheart. And I always will. Please come and collect me just as soon as Heaven will allow, won't you?

GOOD FRIDAY REMARKS - A Reflection of the Seventh Word:

"Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last." - Luke 23:46

I want to talk for a moment, just a moment, about this final, the seventh of Christ’s last utterances from the cross and why it gives me such pause, such hope, is so very resonant. Indeed, a basis for faith itself.

Isn’t it interesting that the sixth utterance is not the last? “It is finished", Christ says. But it isn’t finished. Not quite.

In a way, all six of Christ’s last utterances prior are informed by this final one. "Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit".

Acceptance. In the darkest hour what mortal eyes - mortal - can only see as the darkest fate. Yet… "Into your hands".

How much, how very much we can never know - mortal, merely mortal - of our own lives, our own loss, our own unknowable fates - but only trust in God, that He knows. That He will put things right. That we must simply endure.

Suffering, cruelty, injustice. All unknowable. All so seemingly unendurable that even Jesus cries out in anguish, "Why hath thou forsaken me?"

But that is not the last word. "Into your hands".

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, his last known writing before his death, imprisoned in Rome he says this: “Always be sober. Endure suffering. Do the work of an evangelist. Carry out your ministry fully.” 

Paul is speaking to a young acolyte. Encouraging him to diligently spread the Gospel but don’t we feel the full weight of his words, if we let them fill our own hearts? Endure suffering. Carry out your ministry fully. Do your work. There is meaning there. You live still for a reason, however unknowable. Carry out your ministry. Keep the faith.

It’s not always easy. We like to think, maybe it’s even an American thing more quintessentially than any other culture, that our best days always lie ahead. That’s a beautiful sentiment, a indefatigably hopeful one, full of poetry and promise but it’s not always true. Not for everyone. Some of us can’t find that anymore. Some of us are broken. Some of us long just to be taken - And having said this, He breathed his last - The beautiful life that was, we can only long for.

I lost the love of my life, my sweetheart, my partner, my soulmate, my true love- Summer was her name - some years ago. She passed away from traumatic brain injuries sustained after a tragic accident. I knelt at her side that night and stood holding her hand in the ICU for ten days after. She never recovered consciousness. She was 31. She was my life. She’s why I’m here.

Some months later, still very worried that I might harm myself, Summer’s best friend, Danya, said something extraordinary to me. I had already made a solemn promise to Mike & Linda - Summer’s beautiful parents - but she wanted to make sure. She said: “If you do that (take your own life), you will never find her.”

That thought stopped me in my tracks. I asked Danya what spiritual beliefs she had that led her to say that. She didn’t really have any. But it didn’t matter. Sometimes something is so resonant its source doesn’t matter. It drills down and grounds itself in faith for you on its own.

I can’t know why my girl was taken. I can’t know why I remain. But I also can’t know how she ever found me - Summer liked to say that, that she found me. Isn't that something of miracle - the holiest of them - in itself? How can I believe that God would lead us to one another - two halves of the same soul - and not intend we should find each other again? Over and over. That this is merely preface, a merely mortal manifestation of the eternal yet to come. Into your hands.

I can’t say that I don’t long for the moment I pass. I miss my girl. I pray each night to wake in some celestial arrivals lounge, just past the escalators, step outside and see Summer pulling up to the curb (somehow The Holy Father has made manifest her battered, quite earthly, 2005 blue Prius) maneuvering into a space - the designated Kiss and Ride for the newly ascended - leaping into my arms, asking me to drive and telling me in rush everything I need to know about The Forever.

I long for that day.
But I must not bring it on.
"Into your hands".
Not only at that hour when I breathe my last and may join her, but at all times.
"Into your hands".
May I carry out your will, as my ministry, fully.
Keep the faith.
"Into your hands, I commend my spirit". Always.
"Into your hands".