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Life celebration for Jay

Yesterday was the life celebration for my friend, Jay Salmon, who died unexpectedly almost three weeks ago at age 48. It was held at the U District cooperative school that Jay's daughter, Sophia, attended.

There was a great turnout of Jay's family and many friends from the diverse areas of his life and history. The woman who officiated over the ceremony was a friend of Jay's wife, Elonna, and I believe she does this professionally. She called herself a "funeral celebrant," which is quite a phrase. She was very good, even though she was just getting over a bad case of laryngitis. I spoke with her a bit before things got started, and she told me she'd be reading parts of the LiveJournal post I wrote after Jay died (which Elonna had pointed her to), except slightly edited for profanity and other non-family-friendly bits.

There were many sections to the ceremony. Two of Jay's brothers read poems that Elonna had selected. Susie (the officiant) wove together bits from both my tribute and the wonderful obituary that was written by Elonna's friend Tifany (with massive input from Elonna). In many ways the most difficult part of the ceremony for me was the friendship circle with Sophia and a bunch of her friends. I feel that I have been robbed of twenty to thirty more years of Jay's friendship, but when I think about what Sophia has lost, it's almost unbearable. At least I had 25 years with Jay. She got just short of 12, and she will never get to know her father as a grown woman. It breaks my heart.

There was a slideshow that (after some technical difficulties that made Denys quip sotto voce, "It's like a meeting at work!") included many photos I'd never seen, as well as quite a few that I contributed myself. In many ways the best part of the ceremony was when people got up and shared stories about Jay. That's when it became evident what a range of people were there, from childhood friends to the people he had just moved in with in October. (From them I learned that theirs is an intentional household, which Jay hadn't mentioned to me. They said they found him such a great fit that they decided his gender -- he was the first man in the household -- was not a problem.) I was perhaps most struck by a couple of guys who had gotten to know Jay when he lived in the previous place, over on Magnolia. They were young guys who had clearly found something like a father figure or mentor in Jay. They both spoke with great emotion about how much his advice and example (one of them was also the father of a young daughter) had meant to them. The final story was from a young girl -- a friend of Sophia's -- who talked about a time when she and Sophia dressed up like pirates and Jay chased them and tickled her till she bent over so hard that her pirate sword hit her in the stomach. Utterly perfect; perfectly Jay.

Well, lots of tears through all this, which I'm sure surprises no one. There was also a ceremony that involved everyone taking a river rock from a basket and infusing it with prayers or blessings or memories. The stones will be used in a fountain in the backyard of the house next door to ours, where Elonna and Sophia live. It's comforting to know that I'll be able to visit it in the future and listen to the fountain speak and think of Jay.

It was comforting to take part in the ceremony, and to spend some time with the large community of people who loved Jay. Over all, however, the ceremony -- and the anticipation of the ceremony in the days before -- left me feeling completely raw and overpowered. The grieving has come in waves, but it receded pretty far last week until I got to Friday. I've been listening to a lot of gospel and soul music since then. It helps, but it also intensifies the feelings of loss. Well, these tears have got to fall. I'm sure they will continue to do so.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 30th, 2013 10:50 pm (UTC)
Beautiful and moving. I like the idea of a fountain. I'd so much rather have a park bench (unsurprising at this point, eh?) than a gravestone in a cemetery no one visits. I like the idea of a fountain for Jay, nice.

And your last paragraph strikes me as very honest. Yes, grief comes in waves and tides.
Dec. 30th, 2013 10:56 pm (UTC)
I like the idea of a park bench, too. That's what friends of Mark Bourne did in his memory, right? The nice thing about a bench is it gives people a place to sit and remember.
Dec. 30th, 2013 11:00 pm (UTC)
Yes, Mark Bourne's friends raised the money for a park bench on Alki. I always read the plaque when I sit at a park bench and think about the person for a minute or so.
Dec. 30th, 2013 11:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the beautiful account; it brought tears. And the link to the obit, too, very moving. Don't know what else to say, save that I'm ever grateful for your witness.
Dec. 30th, 2013 11:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Ron. I love that obituary, and it was very cool to have my piece interwoven with it at the ceremony.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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