I don't write here as much as I used to. I have other outlets. I have other commitments. Too many commitments, really. But it's here that I did such formative work, and it's here that some of my favorite pieces - rejected by other venues but always welcome here - still live. This place is still a home, still worth returning to, to visit these old friends, the unpublished dear ones.
One of these pieces is "The One That Saves Me," the piece I wrote about "Wonderwall," the iconic Oasis song that - whenever I hear it - also serves me as a reminder of Dave Burnett, my friend - and everyone's friend - who died at the age of 22 in a fall while vacationing in Petra. After writing it slowly over five years, I sent it to a bunch of places hoping for publication. But none of them understood. Was it a memorial piece? Musical analysis? A meditation on mortality? Could I make it more about the song? Or less about the song? Or could I rework to make it less emotional? Could I make it Jewier? Or less Jewy? It was too much. This piece meant a lot to me, and I didn't want to change it. So I gave it a home here, gave it a room in this house of Kvetch.
This year, with nearly a month of 2016 gone, Dave's yahrzeit is back again to remind me of how much we've all lost, which we all know and remember, and how much we've gained, which we often forget. We have lost him, and continue to lose him every year on this date and in this place and in other dates and places that remind us of him. And we are also embraced and somewhat comforted by the knowledge of how many people miss him, how big this community embrace really is, spanning ages and countries and languages and experiences. And we marvel at how many initiatives - scholarships and grants and other good works - have been done in his name and in his memory, carrying on his passion for connecting people and nurturing relationships. We would give them all up for more time with him. But that's not how it works.
I Google him sometimes. It seems odd to Google someone eight years after they're gone. How could there be sites I haven't seen or memorials I didn't know about? How could there be news about someone who's not here anymore? But there is news. There are sites. And there are memorials. We're creating them all the time. We verb our remembering, building memory actively. (Here's a list I found this year, of all the initiatives in his name, which notes the last update was 2014. Since then, there has likely been more.)
The world has changed since that January. He never knew ISIS or Snapchat or Justin Bieber, all of which are probably for the best. The people who knew and loved him have changed in so many ways, moving forward in their lives in ways they could never have imagined. Over the years, his friends may have drifted away from each other in ways that would have surprised him. But Dave is always as we remember him.
This annual march into memory is difficult. We are all acutely aware of what is missing. But it's a privilege to return to those memories, to live again in those moments when "Wonderwall" was part of the adhesive that bound us together so tightly in a bomb shelter in Israel, and we had paintbrushes in our hands, and every reason to believe everything was going to go on forever.
When all the roads are winding and all the lights that lead me there are blinding, I will always think of those times and of Dave, and realize anew that, as I originally wrote, Dave has become a point of light – we seek his wisdom and spirit to inspire and illuminate our way. May his memory always inspire and bless us.