Darkness and Light
This reflection began with the death of a friend, Kerry Davis, with whom I used to play basketball. First this happened:
My dear friend Charlie, who told me about the funeral, had everything wrong. He was there waiting for me at the station in Lugano …We take the small train to Caslano where he says we can view the body at 14h30…Charlie has recently had a knee operation and can barely walk…We limp the mile from Caslano station to the church…No Kerry Davis in sight…Another funeral has ended…Charlie shows some casket chauffeurs in front of the church the info on his iPhone where he has a picture of the death announcement…(they actually remember Charlie, Kerry, and I from our playing and coaching days)…Kerry is not in Caslano, but in Lugano where he can be viewed at 16h30, but the funeral is the next day at 9h…We walk the mile back and take the train and bus to where Kerry is supposed to be in Lugano (the viewing spot is 100 meters from “La Gerra” where the Lugano basketball team used to play)…I leave Charlie in a café and go see if Kerry is there. There are 5 doors with names on them. I put on my glasses. Kerry is there…I look around…It’s 16h…No one looks at me…I try the door…It opens. I enter heaven. Kerry and I have a moment together just like old times though he is resting in peace (the expression seems appropriate). However his 1m98 body barely fits in the box. His shiny coffee-black skin makes him look very healthy and I keep thinking he will open an eye, wink, say something, wiggle, etc. – you know, share a moment with me about a couple of our great memories together, maybe even tell me how he died. I say without thinking, “Kerry, I love you to death.” He doesn’t wake up… I go fetch Charlie at the café. It’s 16h30 and he is charging his phone and having coffee. I have a quick Irish beer and then take him over to see Kerry. An old basketball person who speaks only Italian is there. For fifteen minutes he talks with Charlie (he coached in Lugano for three years and speaks decent Italian) about his own bout with cancer. I ask if he knows how Kerry died. He doesn’t know – just says it was “subito”. At least I think that’s what he says. I walk around the casket a few times. I can’t see the scar on Kerry’s forehead where he had hit his head on the basket forty years before. Oh could he jump with those thighs of elastic steel. I touch his hand and we go back outside. Both are cold…As we walk to the bus to the station, Charlie says he doesn’t like that kind of stuff.
We get on the same train at 17h42. He gets off in Lucerne…I come in the house at 22h30. Both other occupants are up, one in front of the tv and the other in front of her iPhone. I ask them how their day was. Answers are brief and neither questions me about anything. I go to bed…
I send this to friend Chris in California. She answers saying: those are very powerful moments alone with the dead. did you feel something missing? spirit? life force? a hollowing out? when i was alone with pam’s dead son, i couldn’t stop touching his hair…, but something indefinable wasn’t there.”
I answer: i’m tempted to say something is always missing…but the dead seem to be missing all but the flesh that will soon rot away…o life
Her reply: all animals the same…a hollowing out when the time comes…where does that energy go? where does the light go when i turn off the switch?
My answer: imagine all the suns – stars – out there in space and yet still most of space is black, bleak, lightless. there is definitely much much more of the universe in the dark than in the light, probably 99.9 %…can the same be said for mankind? if so, where are the human lights, the ones that really glow on their own, not from the lights of cameras, stages, and spotlights?
And so I began to reflect on darkness and light, life and death, and humans that might be lights unto themselves, humans that actually give off light as opposed to humans that walk in the light of cameras, stages, and spotlights, i.e. humans who are suns themselves as opposed to humans that bask in the light of the stars and suns.
Who creates her or his own light? Who lives in the light created by other sources?
There are suns and stars all over the universe that are attached to nothing and exude light of unimaginable proportions. Our sun can reach temperatures of 15 million degrees Celsius. We are 93,000,000 miles away, but the sun keeps us warm. It is that strong, that hot, that much of a force. What are we, we who grovel for a few decades on the earth? Are there any sources of light among us?
Our sun is not even one of the bigger suns in the universe. Just in our own Milky Way galaxy (wouldn’t “Milky Way” be a wonderful name for a shopping mall?) there are stars that are thought to be 1,500 times bigger than our sun.
But we should not compare ourselves to things so far away. What good does it do? Oh yes, it can help to give us a perspective on things…But what things should we really have a perspective about? Ourselves? Others? Our nations? Our values?…Our thoughts?…Our beliefs?…Our truths?…Our time alive and dead?
What is the goal of “having a perspective”? Might it be that only one who can step back can shine out? Only one separate from the block of humanity can one shine on humanity?
Ask yourself, “Am I a source of light?”… “Do I simply live off the light of the sun and others?”… “Do I absorb light or do I give it off?”
Now let us ask, “What is truly enlightening?” Other than suns, fire, and electric lights, what gives off light? When you are in a dark place with other human beings or animals, which creatures will make the place feel darker and which ones will make it feel lighter?
When I stood next to my friend Kerry’s coffin, it did feel as though he was giving off light. He had always been a source of pleasure when we played together and when I coached him. We never argued or fought. If we won, we had a few pleasant beers together. If we lost we had a few pleasant beers together. He never bitched or complained about life. It is true that he stuttered and because of this was not a man who said much, except after a few of those pleasant beers.
When we were in Rome together in 1978 celebrating the end of a season, we invited a couple of women to our hotel. We had had a few grandpas during the day and we bought a bottle of whiskey for when the “girls” came. They finally showed up around 21h. It became evident that we were not two matches made in heaven when one of the girls said she was a couple months pregnant and another said she had some female problem with her reproductive apparatus. After they left around 23h, Kerry and I drank most of the bottle of whiskey. We laughed and joked to where he fell headfirst between the two beds and couldn’t get up. I remember standing on a bed and pulling his massive body up by his skinny ankles.
But O my God those thighs weren’t skinny. Oh no! They were made of elastic steel.
Even dead, Kerry was light.