Little Sweetheart, we got the nicest note today from someone who has read and cared about our story and so I'm going to post it here below. I love telling people about you, my darling, so it's very nice indeed when someone understands how very much you mean to me and how I long, with faith & love, to be with you again, soon and forever:
"I just wanted to let you know - I don't know Summer, or you for that matter, but I read what you write about her quite often. I have never been moved to tears by a post before, but whenever you write about her, I am. She must have been an amazing woman. And I am so happy that you experienced a love like that in your life. It ended much too soon and I am, beyond words, so sorry for that. For her, not as if I could speak for her, but let me say thank you for loving her so wonderfully, perfectly, and completely. It's so beautiful, even to get a glimpse of. If anything, know I'm wishing you the best from a thousand miles away. I hope you are doing well, my friend."
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Saturday, April 25, 2015
(originally written and delivered by Michael Louis Serafin-Wells for his sweetheart, Summer, at her memorial on April 25, 2011)
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.
I love you, too. Love you forever. Goodnight, little sweetheart.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Saturday, April 11, 2015
So, my sweetheart, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about those brief remarks, that “reflection” I wrote for the Good Friday service and posted here shortly thereafter. The reflection itself was meant to be on the short side – they asked me for 250-300 words – so it didn’t get to range at length and into any kind of discussion about personal, evolving belief. But I find myself wanting to wade into that just a bit here and now…
You never got to meet him, my love, but I know you remember my talking about a friend of mine, my playwriting mentor, the Founder of NYC’s Ensemble Studio Theatre, the late Curt Dempster. I remember that he told me once that teaching is a very important thing for an artist (maybe everyone, of any profession) to eventually take on because it makes you examine what you truly believe. I think writing is of a similar stripe – it requires that kind of self-inquiry.
I think one of the things that most puts people off religion is a perceived demand that one must accept a set of definitive answers as the price of admission. But I don’t think it has to be like that. Sweetheart, do you remember my telling you about happening upon Grace Catherdral after your Mom and I were at the Top of the Mark the Sunday after Christmas in SF? There’s this great sign at the entrance - an invitation to enter “a place of religious immunity” is how it begins and then goes on to say how they are committed to an “unconditional surrender to the freedom of God to speak in whatever language is understandable”. This little church I’ve been going to here in NYC feels welcoming in that exact way – a recognition and respect for every individual’s journey, to not knowing but to seeking.
So when you read those words of my “reflection” – indeed, when I read them myself, one may well ask: do I believe that God incarnate as human literally walked the earth, was executed and resurrected? I don’t know. But that language is one way, perhaps, of putting words to this idea, this feeling I have and most firmly do believe that we are not alone. That love is enteral. And that through love we will find our way again to those we love when we too pass from what we see and know now, to all we can’t yet but will, as do they - as do you, my little sweetheart - in due time.
There’s a wonderful moment in Penelope Spheeris’s documentary about the late-70’s punkrock scene in LA, “The Decline of Western Civilization”. She’s interviewing Black Flag and she asks the drummer about his rather startling haircut. He answers so softly she has to ask him a second time and he says, quietly, earnestly, “I’m searching.” Quite right…
Love & faith,
Sunday, April 5, 2015
It’s Easter Sunday, little sweetheart, and I woke up early to go to that nice little church I’ve been telling you about. I’m really beginning to feel a shift – not in the way I love or miss or long for you, that is eternal, unchanging – but in how I get through these inexplicable days now. It’s such a contrast, I want to tell you.
I went to the theatre last night and really understood why I hadn’t been in so long – I don’t belong there anymore. There are so many things that used to be a part of my life, even seemed important, that just hold nothing for me anymore. Not without you here, my darling. I find myself doing my best, feeling the most right, when I’m at something mindful. And that’s not so easy to find always. It means letting go of things that once were routine and familiar. The letting go of those things, surprisingly, is not the hardest part. Sometimes, like last night, it just becomes so very clear. Sitting there – and also milling about with all the noisy, fussy, pretty people before and after – I could just feel and see with such clarity that I did not belong, that this wasn’t anything to do with the world I exist in now. It seemed foreign, strangely. Unrecognizable. Was it so different? Was it me? Was it both? It didn’t make me sad at all. I just had no reason to be there. It no longer spoke to me.
By contrast, this morning, even tho’ I didn’t feel good – I think I’m coming down with something, little sweetheart, this winter has gone on one day too long! – I got myself up and out of the house and I was glad to get to the lovely Sunday service. I felt better being there. And people were welcoming and friendly and knew my name and knew of you – I love talking to people about you, my love, I showed a young couple there who’ve been so nice to me a picture of you & I together in Carmel and your name was in the bulletin because I made a donation for the flower fund that decorated the altar today. I felt I was in the right place. And I felt you with me. Even tho’ you weren’t too big on church, your shining light of love would be so perfect here at my side, and I know you’re with me.
Afterward, on the walk home, I felt very tired - I fell right into bed and napped most of the afternoon – and a bit sad and so very lonely, my sweetheart. So very lonely without you. I don’t know why I’m still alive, to be honest, darling. I can’t imagine what more there is for me to do. How to go on. I just want more than anything to die myself and be with you where you are. All I want is for you to come collect me. And I guess while I wait the best thing I can do is just try to be nice and quiet and listen for you and try to find the places that feel at least a little bit right, where I feel I might belong a little, to let go of everything else so inconsequential, until I’m truly home. Because home is you, Summer. Home is you, my love, my beautiful angel, my little sweetheart. You are my home.
Friday, April 3, 2015
I've been going to that nice little church on W77th & West End that I told you about, my little sweetheart. They have a really lovely Taize candlelight service on Wednesday evenings that consists of short Evensong hymns that are almost like chants, readings from both sacred and secular (poetry mostly) texts, a prolonged silent meditation in near darkness at its center and an opportunity just before to come forward, light a candle and say a silent prayer - which I always do for you, for us, my love. Last week the Associate Pastor, a very nice young woman named Jes, who I quite like and told all about you, asked if I would write something and deliver it as part of the Good Friday service. That service is centered around the final words or utterances of Christ. The idea being to write a "reflection" upon them. There are seven of them. I had the fifth - "I thirst". So, I wrote and spoke what follows here this morning, my darling, my heart so full of your memory and beautiful ever-present presence. At the very end, we all left the sanctuary and stood on the steps just outside the church to hear the bells toll exactly 33 times. It was raining slightly and someone, a woman I've seen on Wednesdays, came over and shared her umbrella with me. It was all very lovely and moving and a bit somber. Afterward, we all began to depart silently, but Jes came up to me in her robes and hugged me. "I adore you," she said. "That was beautiful. And I'm so glad you're coming here". It really was very nice, my sweetheart and I too am glad I'm going. Every time I do, it's a wonderful opportunity just to be mindful and quiet and to listen for and find you. I love you, Summer. With all my heart and soul. Forever and ever I do.
FIFTH WORD John 19:28
After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.”
Jesus’s fifth utterance “I thirst” is, at first thought, perhaps the most prosaic. A simple declarative. But upon reflection I find it terribly resonant. I find it important and one of the things I most need to remember: that He came to the world as flesh and blood. Not some distant deity but as a human being to walk the earth so He could feel the longings and pain, the grief and the sadness, the desperate loneliness that we are heir to. I think possibly “I thirst” is meant to remind us of that. Not only does God understand how achingly we thirst – for love, for understanding, for justice, for compassion, for the precious presence of those who have touched our hearts only to be torn from us by death. How we thirst, so broken, to return to them. God more than understands. God feels. God grieves with us. Weeps with us. Mourns with us. Hears our plaintive whispered prayers. Because He walks with us, God knows. God shares our pain. God shares our thirst. And as Revelation says, that day is nigh “When He will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Michael Louis Serafin-Wells
April 3, 2015
New York City