August 27, 2001

An online friend writes:

I do not know you nor did I know your life partner. I accidentally ran across the sad news of his passing on the internet.

At a time like this there are no words, and I do not pretend to understand what you must be suffering right now.

Ausonius was an early 5th century poet, and his pupil and lover was Paulinus (Saint) who became bishop of Nola. Ausonius writes:

Through all that life may allot
Or assign to mortals,
As long as I am held within this prison body,
In whatever world I am found,
I shall hold you fast,
Grafted onto my being,
Not divided by distant shores or suns.
Everywhere you shall be with me,
I will see with my heart
And embrace you with my loving spirit.

Paulinus wrote back:

And when, freed from my body's jail,
I fly from earth,
Wherever in heaven our Father shall direct me,
There also I shall bear you in my heart.
Nor will that end,
That frees me from my flesh,
Release me from your love.

I do not know what type of spirituality you and Jeremy may or may not have practiced; but poetry has made the difficult times in my own life easier.

Augustine, speaking of the death of one of his friends writes in his *Confessions* "For I felt that my soul and his were one soul in two bodies, and therefore life was a horror to me, since I did not want to live as half; and yet I was afraid to die also lest he, who I had loved so much, would completely die."

Unfortunately, Augustine comes to the conclusion later in his life that we should not love human beings (too much) because they are mortal and will die. Augustine thought that we should only love God; a God that he thought was immortal and eternal.

Now you face Augustine's dilemma, and I hope you do not repeat his mistake. After the death of his (male) friend whom he loved passionately, he cut himself off from human love and directed his energy toward a silent, eternal, and in his mind unchangeable God. In time, when you have mourned Jeremy's passing, I hope that you will have the courage NOT to cut yourself off from love. I hope you will risk, and lay everything on the line and open yourself up to the possibility of loving again.

My deepest sympathy and pathos in this difficult time.

When these words were written the kids and Steve and Eden and I were beginning our explanation of Arches National Park, a place of sublime beauty, the Ogden memorial service still fresh in our minds, the services in Houston and Atlanta still a week ahead of us. "How perfect" I thought when I read these words later that week, then I plunged into whatever I was doing (and God knows there was a lot to be done) and forgot about them.

Now I'm in the rocky time. The time when there's not a lot to do. Except to get on my life. A life that until seven weeks ago was one that was lived in virtual lockstep with Jeremy. "How perfect"? The sentiment is so applicable it's surreal.

I don't face the same dilemma Augustine faced, I'm happy to report. The advantages of growing up in late 20th century America, rather than 4th century Roman North Africa, I suppose.

I'm absolutely sure that we're all part of an eternal love, no matter whether we happen to occupy corporeal bodies. I'm certain that loving Jeremy -- or anyone else -- is loving God, and vice versa. The more we love one, the more we love the other.

And on a very down day in Houston in August, that's a good thing to know.

Much love...

RPJ


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