A Sort of Eulogy
October 15, 6 days after Beffa died: I opened my half gallon of Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream and thought of Beffa. She used to call or stop by, climb my stairs and knock and send Tippy into a twirl and ask me if I would like to eat some ice cream with her if she brought it over, and she would go to Aldrich’s and get two half gallons, I’d get us bowls and put a little from each flavor. She would tell me I had to keep it so I did. Today I thought of her and I’m sad. I will always think about her and ice cream that I bought at Aldrich’s.
I went to QFC the other day for something only available at QFC and thought of Beffa, like I should call her to see if she wanted to go. She would have in her grocery shopping days. She loved the Port Hadlock store. She would shop up and down every aisle and buy 10 bags of stuff including a huge bag of dry dog food to feed the crows, and I’d help her lug it all into her foyer from the trunk of my car.
I was going to volunteer to write her obituary, but it seems to have turned into a confused circus about who and what to say. I decided that how I feel about her death is mine, and I will write about it, how her death affects me. When people die, it isn’t really about them anymore, it’s about the people affected by the dying person’s life and death.
I met Beffa in “the 1012” coffee shop the first month I moved to Port Townsend. I had gone there to meet with another woman I had bought a little nightstand from that she advertised on Craig’s list. She invited me to meet her at the coffee shop and it was November and cold. We ended up sitting in the booth with Beffa who asked who I was, and then grabbed a napkin and wrote down her email and said I should email her, and I did.
One day soon after I met her she asked me if I could help her with opening her “crate” (which I soon found out meant her computer). She seemed to make up words and string them together in an odd way sometimes to express what she was saying as if only the words she thought of, or made up, would describe what she was saying. I helped her set up a couple of email boxes and folders to sort the email she got. She said she didn’t want to keep any. Four years later, the day before she died, October 8, when I took her “crate” home to my house, she had 20 different email boxes all filled with email she was keeping.
The week before she died she told me her email was the only thing important to her now. But that day before she died she demanded I take her computer to my house and not let anyone ever read her email. Wanted me to erase it. It’s strange what people worry about when they are on death’s door. I haven’t read it and haven’t erased it, but I will.
Typical Email exchange…
On May 20, 2013, at 5:12 PM, Beffa Wyldemoon <email@example.com> wrote: Thanks for stopping by. I do everyday go to 1012 — usually in the morning before 10 a.m. It was good to have today’s visit; we have an “easy affinity” — it seems as though I’ve known you much longer than the few months of our meeting.
On May 20, 2013, at 7:49 PM, Carol Jones wrote: Stopping by was/is always my pleasure….Yes, I agree, I think it is easier to get to know someone at this point in life, maybe because you have to hurry up and know people before they die or forget they know you, or you die and forget you know them. Kind of joking and kind of not. Who knows what will happen as time speeds along. You were/are the friendliest person I met when I first got here. No one believes it but I’m basically shy and a hermit.
This Monday, October 17, 8 days after
I decided to take my poor ailing cat (her name the shelter gave her was Mrs. Kitty, but Beffa, always the champion of women said she should be Ms. Kitty) to the vet, hoping they would look at her and asses her condition and give me some pills to make her well and strong again and stop gasping for breath and help her walk without staggering. I know, it was a large hope for a smart person to have. Beffa loved Ms. Kitty and took care of her back when I still had control over every day in the week (before I started working on-call 5 out of 7 days every week now) and would go spend the weekend in Duvall or Oregon. When I got Ms. Kitty she had been shaved down to the skin everywhere except her head and tail, and had spent three months in the shelter in an office where the public wouldn’t see her, she was a shriveled mess even then, three years ago. I knew she had something respiratory going on, but she kept eating and drinking and it all came out the other end just fine. But she did cough a horrible sounding cough at times and it sounded like no other cat cough I had ever heard. The night before Monday she had jumped up on the bed as usual but seemed to be gasping for breath holding her mouth open and standing still, I had been watching and thinking about her for the past two weeks because she just had the look of pain in her eyes and seemed more frail than usual. After X-rays and blood work had pretty much drained my credit card, the prognosis was that they couldn’t tell exactly what treatment to prescribe without more tests and her kidneys were in about stage three of complete shut down and they doubted if anything could improve her quality of life which I translated to mean quality of my bank account. So just another hundred more to put her to sleep. No more Ms. Kitty. If there is a heaven or a spirit world where the spirits of humans and animals get together, I’m sure she and many other cats are sitting on Beffa’s lap.
Wednesday, October 19
I went to “Just Soup” today and all the usuals were there. Beffa and I went often, back when I wasn’t tied down at my on-call life, but I had time this morning to go. I used to check with her and walk down, even when her hip hurt and her leg hurt after the radiation for bone cancer she would always want to walk down and back.
I guess I would say she was my only friend in this town. I know lots of people now, but I can’t say anyone is the kind of friend like Beffa was.
At the not-a-memorial celebration/remembrance/gathering and feeling and maybe being crass:
At Beffa’s celebration-not-a-celebration-but-a-gathering. Her stuff that used to adorn her house, feathers and stones and things arranged all around, stuffed Crows, cards paintings she made, sketches and art that she made, poems that she wrote or loved. Her giant glasses. People I know but didn’t know they knew her, but I should have known because everyone knew her. Her children who hardly spoke to her were there. She never mentioned except in sadness as if they were dead to her and here they all are part of the crowd. Organizers of the event and gleaner of the stuff. But Suzanne her very best friend too was here and told me how hard it was to do the gleaning and that all the stuff was free for all to take as a memento. I never thought of it that way and Suzanne is so kind and in touch with people and life. There is food a woman made who was in a writers group with her. Three soups created to represent the three stages of female life: maiden, matron, crone. Everyone oooos and aaaaas. The UU minister is the leader of sending the group to the food. It is like freshman orientation week or a conference on photoshop where everyone is a stranger with one thing in common. Beffa is photoshop. People talk about their experiences with her as if they can increase their connections with each other or fake their desire to connect. We can’t connect with her any more than we have done. Now the man next to me is talking to another artist about some of Beffa’s art decorating our table…being an art critic on the art of someone he barely knew. Well, I guess people connect in their own way. They have to connect with something at a gathering of strangers where the stars of the show are four children that barely communicated with their mother for several years before she died.
Her four kids, two adopted, were never around as long as she lived here in pt but here they are to party with the crowd. She said she thought they were mad at her for moving so far away from them.
11/12/16 after Esko Cate’s celebration of music at the same church. It was very nice, all music. I am on the verge of deleting all Beffa’s files, her user folder and everything on this computer that is not my own. Then it will be officially mine. I just can’t do it. There is nothing she left on here that I want or need, I have created a totally different user account for me. It was her gift to me for making sure no one could read her email or anything else she wrote. But it seems wrong to delete the digital Beffa. I can’t do it. Yet.
A love poem sent to me and many others from Beffa on May 17, 2014
By Langdon Smith (1858-1908)
When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
In the Paleozoic time,
And side by side on the ebbing tide
We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
Or skittered with many a caudal flip
Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
My heart was rife with the joy of life,
For I loved you even then.
Mindless we lived and mindless we loved
And mindless at last we died;
And deep in the rift of the Caradoc drift
We slumbered side by side.
The world turned on in the lathe of time,
The hot lands heaved amain,
Till we caught our breath from the womb of death
And crept into life again.
We were amphibians, scaled and tailed,
And drab as a dead man’s hand;
We coiled at ease ‘neath the dripping trees
Or trailed through the mud and sand.
Croaking and blind, with our three-clawed feet
Writing a language dumb,
With never a spark in the empty dark
To hint at a life to come.
Yet happy we lived and happy we loved,
And happy we died once more;
Our forms were rolled in the clinging mold
Of a Neocomian shore.
The eons came and the eons fled
And the sleep that wrapped us fast
Was riven away in a newer day
And the night of death was passed.
Then light and swift through the jungle trees
We swung in our airy flights,
Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms
In the hush of the moonless nights;
And oh! what beautiful years were there
When our hearts clung each to each;
When life was filled and our senses thrilled
In the first faint dawn of speech.
Thus life by life and love by love
We passed through the cycles strange,
And breath by breath and death by death
We followed the chain of change.
Till there came a time in the law of life
When over the nursing sod
The shadows broke and the soul awoke
In a strange, dim dream of God.
I was thewed like an Auroch bull
And tusked like the great cave bear;
And you, my sweet, from head to feet
Were gowned in your glorious hair.
Deep in the gloom of a fireless cave,
When the night fell o’er the plain
And the moon hung red o’er the river bed
We mumbled the bones of the slain.
I flaked a flint to a cutting edge
And shaped it with brutish craft;
I broke a shank from the woodland lank
And fitted it, head and haft;
Than I hid me close to the reedy tarn,
Where the mammoth came to drink;
Through the brawn and bone I drove the stone
And slew him upon the brink.
Loud I howled through the moonlit wastes,
Loud answered our kith and kin;
From west to east to the crimson feast
The clan came tramping in.
O’er joint and gristle and padded hoof
We fought and clawed and tore,
And cheek by jowl with many a growl
We talked the marvel o’er.
I carved that fight on a reindeer bone
With rude and hairy hand;
I pictured his fall on the cavern wall
That men might understand.
For we lived by blood and the right of might
Ere human laws were drawn,
And the age of sin did not begin
Til our brutal tusks were gone.
And that was a million years ago
In a time that no man knows;
Yet here tonight in the mellow light
We sit at Delmonico’s.
Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs,
Your hair is dark as jet,
Your years are few, your life is new,
Your soul untried, and yet —
Our trail is on the Kimmeridge clay
And the scarp of the Purbeck flags;
We have left our bones in the Bagshot stones
And deep in the Coralline crags;
Our love is old, our lives are old,
And death shall come amain;
Should it come today, what man may say
We shall not live again?
God wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds
And furnish’d them wings to fly;
He sowed our spawn in the world’s dim dawn,
And I know that it shall not die,
Though cities have sprung above the graves
Where the crook-bone men made war
And the ox-wain creaks o’er the buried caves
Where the mummied mammoths are.
Then as we linger at luncheon here
O’er many a dainty dish,
Let us drink anew to the time when you
Were a tadpole and I was a fish.