One of my best friends and I have had a disagreement for years. He’s always held fast to Orson Welles’ dictum: “We’re all born alone . . . and we all die alone.” Me? I don’t buy it. The born-alone, die-alone line strikes me as aphoristic claptrap. I mean, can’t you just imagine some teen-age bad-boy finishing the thought with a drawn out, “maaaann?” Wisdom, while often clear after revelation, is not low-hanging fruit to be whacked at with an angsty-stick.
If I didn’t enjoy mixing it up with my friend so much, I probably would have let this slide years ago, but with friends like him, having the argument is far more important than winning it. As such, we engage Mr. Welles routinely. Each time we start with the formulaic regularity of a Queen’s-Pawn-to-Queen’s-Pawn-Four opening. The fireworks don’t start until the middle game when we each try to string together enough bullshit and speculation to sway the other to our side. Admittedly, neither of us has had much of value to say on the subject for years, but we still fervently believe our own wild guesses.
I can’t accept that we die alone. I recoil at the notion that all our connections, forged over lifetimes of empathy and language, abandon us at the end. We are, in many ways, defined by our relationships. Why would our last thought be, for the first time in our entire lives, “Where did everyone go?”
Yet, never having died, our arguments were dandelion seed wafting back and forth on puffs of hot air. I’d rail about logic and symmetry. My friend would compare the shutting down of biological systems to turning out the lights in a house, room by room, until you were standing alone with one brief candle in hand and then, no more — or something equally eloquent. Now, anyone conditioned to conversations over drinks will have to admit: Metaphor, even poorly structured metaphor, trumps rhetoric as clearly as paper covers rock. As such, I would generally be forced to retreat from my position. In the end that was fine. I’d score my points later when the game turned to politics or history, he’d get in more licks on finance and art. What we were really doing was filling the moments with as much spirit as we were able before the night (or the night manager) sent us home, happy that those hours together were a thoughtful, freewheeling blast.
Over our decade of friendship, I have never won that particular scuffle, but now, finally, I’ve got some real ammo and I’m coming for him. See, in March of this year, I almost died. Moreover, I paid attention while it was happening. Quite unexpectedly, I ended up in the hospital with a cascading series of organ failures caused by an undiscovered genetic condition that bit me hard after forty-eight years on the planet. For weeks my heart wasn’t beating much or well. It was “kind of quivering,” according to my cardiologist. Though I didn’t discover this until months later, my doctors were working on the assumption that my condition rendered me “incompatible with life.”
The prognosis for patients with such an advanced stage of my illness is troubling. Seventy-five-percent are dead in three years and it was by no means assured that I’d even leave the hospital under my own steam. Experientially, I was close enough to death to study the lines on its face and, odd as this may sound, I came to see it as something not unbeautiful.
Throughout the process my mind was filled with visions, though a less charitable narrative could faithfully call them hallucinations. Whatever they were, they persisted even while holding conversations with my family. For twenty-three days, I was stuck in that room, but my consciousness was divided between my bed and another, far-away, place. At once, I was propped up by pillows, muscles atrophying with tubes in my arms and a constant round of blood-draws, injections, oral meds, echocardiograms and cardiac catheterizations — and yet, at the same time, I was standing in the mouth of a cave on a ten-thousand-mile-high cliff, peering out over a storm of galaxies so close I could spin them with the tips of my fingers. It was epic in scope. It was fascinating as art. It was unlike anything I had ever known.
I came to think of that place as the antechamber of my own finality and inside it moments slowed, expanded and swelled with memory. A handful of hospital-bed seconds could contain entire seasons in vision-time. At noon on a Tuesday I’d be swallowing my meds and in the act I would also be with Bill and Marcia in the summer of 1986. We’d swim underneath Triphammer Falls on the fifth of June, then we’d be at the bar in July and by the time the pills hit my stomach, we’d be laying around our apartment on Cook Street in late August, getting ready to say goodbye through tears. Having swallowed the pills, I’d find myself setting camp in Alaska with my brother Ed. In the time it took for a visitor to settle into a seat, he and I would hike the entire Chilkoot Trail: Sheep Camp, The Scales, Happy Camp, lupines and high-alpine lakes under the big, blue dome. Those experiences would be fully relived and then, while stuffing my sleeping bag or hoisting my pack for another day on the trail, mom would pull me back to the hospital with a question about lunch. I’d refocus my eyes — keeping the writhing, furnace-like heart of the universe just in view over her shoulder — and say, “Half a ham sandwich. Thanks, Ma.”
I wasn’t happy about the hospital bed, but I loved that private world. It felt like all of my homes at once. It was a portal to, seemingly, every moment of my existence and a place where everyone I’d ever known could gather and bring their friends. I tried on a few occasions to share these experiences with my folks, but it was too disturbing for them.
In order to occupy that space, I had to commit to the risk of dying. I tried to explain that to my parents, but they’d panic behind their own eyes and change the subject. After attempting twice, I decided I’d keep it to myself, but then my older brother Jay came to visit. I figured that if there was anyone I could share this with, it was Jay. He has always been able to remain calm in difficult and stressful times.
I knew I was frightening him, but I wanted someone to verify my experiences and share them with the family if I died. I explained that if I did, that was okay — even though accepting that death was present did not, under any fucking circumstance, mean a weak-willed surrender of life. Rather, it was an understanding that having stared beyond the borderlands, having seen just how far the future and the past stretch over the horizon, that forty-eight years on the planet didn’t carry any less meaning than eighty-four. I was satisfied with my life, not done with it. Moreover, I knew that I had a job to do. To get out of that bed and burn brightly would require a ferocity of spirit that meant wagering everything I had left, and I wanted Jay to know that the gamble was undertaken with purpose aforethought.
The doctors and my family were considering any recovery a gift. To me, however, a couple more years of lying in a bed or celebrating a walk around the block didn’t much rate. Standing in the cave’s mouth it was clear, if only to me, that to come back alive, fully alive, I would have to embrace the probability of not surviving much longer. In order to have the strength to shoot the gap between death and life, I’d need to harvest strength from all of those memories and the love imbedded within — and the only way to have access to that power was to spend time very near the edge. In doing so, however, I might slip. Still, having a compromised life to fall back upon meant that I’d fall back on it. I needed to accept the future as an all-in proposition and then have faith that the turn and the river would both break my way.
“Miraculously,” according to my cardiologist, they did.
We’ll return to the dramatics of near-death in a few moments, but the story of descent into profound, life-threatening illness and the ensuing recovery starts with the prosaic humdrum of a middle-aged man fighting a war of attrition with gravity and the calendar. I’m edging up on fifty years of age, but I sensed my troubling tactical position when I turned forty five. In both the din of activity and the quiet hours before dawn, I’d begun to take note of thinning defensive fortifications here, a battlement buckling there. Near as I could tell, however, there was little possibility of reinforcements arriving, so I did my best and accepted the inevitability of an assault I hoped would not come for decades. As it turns out, there is no handbook to tell you what growing old feels like, and becoming gravely ill over the course of several years can mimic the expectations impressively.
The changes were subtle. The descent into a slower, more sedentary lifestyle was gradual. The jolly of my midsection expanded steadily and without triggering any alarms. My robustly growing garden of excuses for avoiding the gym day after day after day was camouflaged as demands on my time by work, family and life. Perhaps most revealing of an underlying problem were the hangovers, but how does one complain to the doctor that they are feeling really bad after drinking all night long and expect anything other than a boot to the head?
So, resignedly, I wrote it all off as the creeping predation of time. Less bang, more whimper. Human rust. It wasn’t until I had trouble walking up the twelve steps into my apartment that I finally made an appointment with the doctor. After that, events moved quickly. My primary care physician first diagnosed diabetes. A few days later that was amended to diabetes and cirrhosis — a condition I learned of from an excited Guatemalan sonogram technician who reported with glee while wanding my liver, “¡Mira! ¡Aquí está la cirrosis! ¡Y aquí, y acá!; está en todos lados en tu hígado! ¡Mira! ¡Mira!”
I swear to God, he was like a kid with a metal detector finding his first bottle caps at the beach. I was almost happy for him, you know, aside from the fact that he was telling me that my life might be far shorter — and less lubricated — than I hoped.
At that point I booked a flight back to the States and was in the air twelve hours later. By the time I got to my folks’ apartment in Manhattan, I was in pretty awful shape. A few days later I was in the office of a hepatologist who pulled no punches. After an examination of my abdomen, he told me that my liver was badly compromised and sent me home with a list of vitamins and a hypertension medication intended to prevent the vein that brings blood to the liver from rupturing and turning me into something one overly graphic website described as “a blood fountain.” After dinner that night, my folks went to sleep and I collapsed on the rollout couch, popped my blood-pressure pill and prepared to rest.
Twenty minutes later, I felt myself slipping away.
By the time the EMTs arrived, my blood pressure was down to sixty over forty five. In the emergency room it would tank to forty over twenty five.
That night is both crystal-clear in my memory and largely lost in a fog, as if the gilding on a vase were radiant gold, but the vase itself lost in shadows. I recall asking for, and remembering, everyone’s name. I shook hands that night like a prostrate politician. “Hi, I’m Mike. Thanks for taking care of me. I’m not feeling very well. What’s your name? Margaret? Nice to meet you Margaret. Sure, of course you can take my blood pressure. Thanks!” I knew these might be the last people I would ever meet, and I wanted to be my best self: generous, gracious, grateful. I specifically remember a nurse named Maria who was sexy as could be. I flirted with her between crises all night long, even asking her out to dance after her shift, though I was so weak I needed help to make it to the bathroom.
Sadly, whatever cavalier sense of derring-do I carried as a dying man still attempting to charm a beautiful woman went straight out the window when a doctor gave me an emetic to purge the blood-pressure medicine from my system. Dry-heaving into a bedpan is, under no circumstances, attractive. Go figure.
I didn’t have words for it at the time, but as I reflect in less fraught circumstances it’s clear now that the hope of a dance and the pursuit of beauty are life and that’s what I was after. I was attempting to spin a few more hours of existence out of anything I could find in a frantic room that smelled of antiseptic and was blue-shifted toward death by fluorescence and the sound of gurney wheels racing through porcelain halls. That magic, as much as the medicine, kept me alive through the night. I’m sure of it.
Sometime the following morning I was moved to a room with three other very sick patients, two of whom were unconscious for the several days we shared those confines. The other patient was a young woman, profoundly ill. She hid under the covers most of the time. I’d watch for her when I wasn’t sleeping and our eyes met a half-dozen times or so from across the room. In those instances we shared a palpable empathy. At first it was just a weak smile and a nod of the head that implicitly said, I’m still here. You’re still here. Fight. Later in the day it was a quick wave, offered furtively, as if we thought we’d be caught and tried for conspiracy. The night before I left, after dinner, I gave her a quick thumbs up when our eyes met. She returned it and her face came alight for an instant. Then, remembering something, she darted beneath the sheets. When I was wheeled out the following day to the cardiac ward, she was sleeping. I have no idea if she is living or dead, but I’m haunted by her — and in love with her — all the same.
Over those days, teams of doctors came, kicked my tires and left. At first, they were primarily concerned with my liver. Then, rather all of a sudden, my heart became the focus of their attentions. As it happens, the results came back from a genetic test ordered by my hepatologist. It indicated that the root of my problems was something called hemochromatosis, and it had been eating me alive for years.
Hemochromatosis is an odd duck. It is a genetic legacy from our Neanderthal ancestors, having entered the population via random mutation in northern Europe during the last Great Ice Age, forty thousand years ago. Genetically, those of us who have it are adapted to store iron in our bodies — specifically in our hearts, livers, pancreases and pituitary glands. Left untreated this can cause heart failure (check), cirrhosis (check), diabetes (check) and the ability to manipulate metal with the mind (pending).
Without getting deeply into the weeds of internal medicine, the genetic test told us that I was dying because my major organ systems were, and to a lesser degree still are, riddled with submicroscopic bullets of iron. They had tripled the size of my heart and there was little hope that my ticker would ever regain its normal size or function, even if the iron were unloaded successfully over a year or more of treatment.
Such was the state of play when I gambled that I was either going to heal or die. I understood the odds viscerally — and yet I didn’t. This is a difficult thing to explain. I knew my heart and liver were so compromised that the chance of making it to my fifties was poor, I just forgot that I was forty eight. As such, there was no panic. It was the damnedest thing. I knew the odds were against survival, but I also knew that I’d be fine if I paid close enough attention to the world around me, so I took to noting everything.
The place of my visions, the antechamber of my finality, was of particular interest and it bore some immediate resemblance to my hospital room. There was a bed. There were a few chairs. There was a bench along the wall and the light was bright enough to be blinding, yet pleasingly gentle on the eyes. It was like a painting of direct sunlight. Whenever I arrived, it felt like walking into a small space that was also an enormous concert hall, and I could hear, very softly, the attenuated echoes of every note that had ever been produced therein.
At the far end of the room was a door that would dissolve when I walked toward it, which, invariably, I would do after becoming acquainted anew with my private, contemplative place. When I came to the doorway and looked out, it was like being perched in the middle of the night sky. This was the mouth of the cave. After standing there for a time, the wind would pick up behind me, blowing outwardly from the room. It gusted with greater strength the longer I stood there and required will to balance against it, then force. As it pushed, I would brace myself in the portal and steel my purpose to resist it as long as possible before being blasted into the vacuum of what I assumed would be my death.
If not interrupted by a nurse who needed to take my weight or a particularly detailed conversation with my mom or dad, I’d stand there for hours, practicing my resistance to the wind. After some time in the doorway, the sky below me would yield a form as black and star-filled as the night sky and galaxies in my view. It was only recognizable as a distortion at first, a bulging outward in all dimensions. It pushed like an egg through a thin rubber sheet that stretched forever to a vanishing point from every angle. When fully present, a part of the black oval would slough away, revealing a fiery, pulsating, ferocious and elemental furnace. It looked like the inside of a planet-sized, motile, ravenous geode. It was immediately recognizable as the heart of the universe, as self-evident as my father’s face in a crowd — and similarly, looking into it revealed a purpose. In this vision the wind at my back was the inevitability of death, the raging furnace ahead was where I would die, the cave’s mouth was the scene of my final stand — and the struggle to stay within its frame was the fulfillment of a lifetime’s accumulated passion, laughter, desire, joy, memory and exaltation.
When I was there, bracing myself against flying away, I understood why at first I heard music in the white room. The notes behind the walls were the voices of everyone I’d ever known and they became clearer the longer I stayed lodged just inside of life. Listening to them, I understood that they had always been there, only silenced to background by the tasks, trials and trivialities of the day. Yet, in that almost-end, when there was nothing left to worry about, each voice was golden and identifiable, each one sang in a personal resonance. I could focus upon them, singularly. One would tell the story of the first day we met on a Syracuse street corner — and the day itself would unfold. Another sang about getting “enlightenment drunk” in Kathmandu, then a third recalled the birth of their child, a fourth voice remembered the Cliffs of Moher when the seagulls circled back to land, and a fifth recited the poem of her own passing. It felt like being inside an endless honeycomb where I could tilt my ear toward every hexagonal cell and hear a different voice. I think this may be a form of life flashing before your eyes, only moving much more slowly. Laying in the hospital bed I was as weak as a kitten, heart quivering and life unsustainable, but standing in the cave’s doorway I felt the power of everyone I’d ever known, everyone I’d ever loved.
As you approach the very end, as your time dwindles to days, then hours, then minutes and seconds, your capacity to hold and manipulate memory, to contain and project passion, goes asymptotic. It is as if our entire lives are lived along a defined curve of, say, the equation Y=1/X. As one variable approaches nought, the other accelerates towards the infinite. You sense this as your hands begin to fail and lose hold. As you slip, the world explodes in flashes of radiance and beauty.
Time after time that month, I would be overtaken with that sensation. I can approximate the experience in the retelling during these days of health and recovery, but the colors have begun to bleed and fail. That loss would break my heart if I did not know it will all come back at least one more time.
I suspect that something very much like this happens to us all. I believe that in those last beats, all you’ve ever known will return in a final gathering before you’re shot out of existence like a flaming arrow. If it is for you as it was for me, fear will be held in abeyance by awe. In each deconstructed second you will feel yourself shatter a thousand times at the presence of so many people returning to your side with full-plumage displayed. You will feel the end coming, but the power of it feeds back into your core and before you have a chance to mourn the inevitable end, the crescendo of emotion will have doubled and then doubled again and again and again.
As you stream toward death the world becomes so filled with memory that time itself seems to stop for a perfect, frozen, eternal moment of connection and right there, at the apex, you can see a truth. I made it to the very edge, but not beyond. Still, looking down, I could sense what comes next. When the wind finally wins and you are launched into the liminal space past life and into death, you begin a final flight that sends you, screaming your own primal aria, toward the open maw of all generative force. When you make impact, your entire life’s purpose will be bundled up for a final act of either grief or giving. You’ll have one chance to drive all of that passion back into the flaming heart of the universe like a warrior planting the sword. Or a farmer breaking the soil. Or a surgeon reaching into a human chest. Or a teacher opening a mind. Or lovers entering one another — and by so doing, you give forward all of yourself in one grand release as millions of other voices chase your harmonics to a frenzy of orchestral potency and perfection like starlings in murmur. Or you will hesitate with fear and sadness that you are dying and miss your mark.
Then, either way, fuufff, you’re gone.
I was lucky enough to have almost a month to study the ways of the ending patiently, but I think this comes to us all. As the nature of the final movement is to expand the capacity to hold love asymptotically, the last act could transpire inside a snow-globe second and in that briefest, timeless and most fertile instant of potential between life and death, that moment when you are maximally you, it becomes paradoxically clear that you do not even exist. Your individual agency, that thing you have hoarded and husbanded for a lifetime, is and always has been an illusion. There is no separation of life. Not at conception. Not in gestation. Not in birth nor at the ending. You have always been the warrior, the sword and the flaming heart of the universe. You have always been the tiller, the plow and the seed. You have always been the doctor, the skill and the patient. You have always been the teacher, the lesson and the pupil. You have always been both lovers sharing sweat and passion. You are fundamentally interwoven with all of the voices in your memory and you are the lyrics of the song. In that final release it becomes achingly clear: Everything is one thing. Each life is an atom of hydrogen inside the sun, which is to say that it is the sun. Each existence is a leaf on a common tree, which is to say that it is the tree. We only live as if we are separate from one another because, on some level, we still believe that when we close our eyes the world disappears. Those scales of misperception fall as we see beyond the curve. Poetically it is appropriate that, as we die, we leave our last vestige of infancy behind.
There is no room in this vision for a God who takes a pronoun or one that binds souls to heaven or hell. All there is, all there ever will be, is us — one giant, interconnected us that reaches back through billions of slowly transforming generations — one being, existing through time. We are as much a part of that ancient, living complexity as are the electrons on the surface of my skin that become the electrons on the surface of your skin when you brush away my tears. You and I are the threads of one nervous system that weaves across the face of the Earth to everyone we’ve ever known and through them to everyone they have ever known and everyone they have ever known, ad imperium. We’re neurons. We’re cones and rods. We are the taste buds of the universe. If you need a God in your spirituality, then we are the fingertips of the distributed Almighty.
That god doesn’t own a retirement home in the sky. He doesn’t keep track of our sins or good works. God isn’t a bookkeeper or a scold. He isn’t a spaceman. The god I’m talking about isn’t even a noun. At the edge of life it is clear, god is any action that binds us together. John the Evangelist was close with his oft-quoted aphorism, but saying “god is to love” is nearer the mark. From the cave’s mouth, god is a verb; god is infinitive.
To god is to love, to touch, to feel, to empathize, to mourn, to weep and remember. To god is to well in awesome wonder as the violin takes an updraft and leaves the orchestra behind. To god is to pray in a cathedral and feel the roseate light pour over your shoulders so sublimely that you would swear it moved like water. To god is to struggle upward on the muezzin’s ancient knees, step by step, from his low bed to the pinnacle of the minaret so that his song might carry forth to the city below. But to god is also to fuck. To god is to hurl your body across the mosh pit as the band turns their amps up to eleven. To god is to make any gesture that embraces life beyond self. When we see the world as it appears near death, it becomes clear that our only purpose is to reach one another. That is the whole of the game. We are here to be one life. A new purpose may arise when we realized that truth, but until then be comforted that, at the very least, there is no such thing as alone. Sorry, old friend. You lose.
I’ve been writing this essay for some time now. The emotions are still, after eight months, hard to tame for the page. I’d started and stopped the process a few times until, quite recently, a workable frame came to me in a flash. I was walking home from the gym and thought about Bruce McCowan, one of the best friends I’ve ever known, and how we’d argued over that Orson Welles trope several times a year for a decade now. Once that framing came to mind, I knew I could push through my writer’s block. Moreover, I’d have him! Even if this essay was a pile of nonsense, I’d kill two birds with the same stone. First, worthwhile or a waste of pages, I’d be able to move on to something new. Second, I’d be able to drop it in Bruce’s lap and give him what-for the next time I saw him. Even if he hated it, he’d be so happy that I’ve recovered, he’d give me the win just for showing up. My health, remarkably, has returned nearly in full.
Instead of rushing to work after I arrived home, I drew a bath, knowing that once I got typing it would flow naturally, and it has. As I lay in the tub that evening, I let my mind drift to different metaphors I could use to describe the gathering of voices, the connection that exists between us all and is made so clear when we spend time near the exit door. Several came to me while in the hospital, living the experience. One of them was the concert hall. Another was about the ocean and how, at the end, we float like sentient foam in saltwater, our consciousness expanding to take in the complexity of the sea. As I thought about that, I dropped my head beneath the bath water and imagined myself at perfect Caribbean buoyancy as the waves in every direction began to rise and take on identities — each whitecap a lover, brother, cousin, sister, ancestor, acquaintance from a long-forgotten side-street, face in a taxi window, all present — an inchoate, celebratory legion. Each ripple in the surface was a unique production of the same unfathomable deeps, never to be repeated and brought into being by the motion of the planets and the music of the spheres. It was a perfect image for my friend Bruce who loves the sea.
After an hour in the tub, my fingers were wrinkled like an old man’s. I was relaxed and feeling the creativity flow properly for the first time in months. I was ready to work so I drained the tub, dried myself off, got dressed and sat at my desk to write. I placed an image holder in the center of the page and scratched out a working title. I was five words into the body of the piece when this message from an acquaintance flashed on my screen:
“Hey, bro. Bruce just died swimming at Cayos. Very sad.”
It felt like I’d been shot. I immediately started making plans to get there, to be with my brother’s body, to carry it wherever it needed to be carried and stand guard over it against the night. I knew, however, that I wasn’t ready to travel, so I sat back down at my desk and cried. Thankfully, I was no more alone in that process than I’d been while bracing against the walls inside the cave’s mouth. Memories of a thousand dinners, of endless games of poker, of laughter and tears flooded in. Members of our tribe, some of whom I’d not thought of in years, carried armfuls of stories and hung them in the air. It was a silent but welcome reunion.
Bruce had one fear of death: He did not want to go by inches. He did not want to lay in a hospital bed so weak that he would need to be bathed, his meals brought on trays, his life monitored by medical puritans. That he died as he did was some comfort. I needed to share that with our mutual best friend, my copublisher of this magazine, John Rexer. I opened my account and wrote him a long email in which I related a part of the story you have just read and I assured him that Bruce was not alone at the end. I even suggested that, perhaps, as I lay bobbing in the bath, dreaming of the sea, part of Bruce’s final trajectory brought him through my world like a sentient meteor allowing his brothers to know that he’d found his way home. Of course, I’ve realized since then that Bruce didn’t visit my world. Rather, if anything, he summoned me to his by focusing on a memory from the infinite honeycomb. By so doing, though I was a thousand miles away, I was able to fly honor-guard at his passing.
Later that night, John called and we spoke for an hour or more. As it turns out, he had just arrived in Cayos Cochinos, where Bruce had a vacation home. He was there to visit our friend for a week of rum and glory. John showed up that morning and hailed Bruce from the boat as he pulled in. Bruce, he said, was drinking pineapple juice on the dock, as happy as he’d ever been. They talked for five-and-a-half hours straight about “absolutely everything.” Bruce was at his best — his mind becoming enflamed by thoughts of art, architecture, a coming trip to Prague, the global economy, climate change and the many graces of curvaceous women. They spoke of great hopes for the future and laughed while swapping stories of old friends, times past and the coming year. They spoke of love. They spoke of death.
They spoke of Bruce’s children and how much he cherished all four of them. They spoke of seeing me again and how happy they were that I’d beaten the odds. According to John, Bruce said “I knew they couldn’t keep that big Irishman down.”
That’s a gift I’ll carry until my end.
As we closed our conversation, John agreed that Bruce was sensing the gathering waves, hearing their voices and preparing for his final flight. His beauty and excitement showed that he was engaged by the entire world as he sat overlooking the grandest metaphor of them all. Shortly after John left to rest for a few hours before dinner, Bruce took a swim and as he was coming back to land his capacity for love went asymptotic, time for him slowed and he grew larger than a mountain. As such, he is not here to say this himself, so as his brother it falls to me to assure those who loved him: Bruce McCowan, Lion of the Panchoy Valley, brought us all with him on his final journey into the flaming heart of everything, his rich baritone ringing out in truth, beauty and a glorious, arcing, display of human light.
Raises the glasses high. This church has no liturgy, but there is a responsorial and I say, “To one of us.”
As you remember him, know that we also abide the ancient admonition of the mariner: Festina Lente. Hasten slowly. Your ending, your giving and gracious ending, is always nigh.