I can still close my eyes and remember vividly the smell and the wetness of the summer grass as we lay on our backs in the darkness, side by side in Mira Vista Park. So vividly, in fact, that as I recall it now I feel like it's entirely possible to reach over and find your hand to hold.
"See the cluster of bright stars there?" you indicated with your outstretched arm. "Look at the darkness between them and concentrate, concentrate on it and it alone," you told me as you tried to take me image by resplendent image through your near-death experiences. Most people think that in death you move towards brightness, you explained, but in your experience it was not that way.
By this point, you'd died numerous times. Born with a defective heart, you needed immediate and innovative surgery -- the kind that gets written into textbooks. You were famous before you even knew how to say your own name, my friend. I recall with astonishing clarity how it felt to run my fingers along your scars; the zipper running the length of your chest that indicated where you'd been forcibly thrust apart to gain access to your ailing heart; the portal where you'd been outfitted with the device that would suggest (and I use the word with trepidation) the only beat you ever did follow. It was on the operating table that you'd found yourself so terribly alone, and yet so terribly free... a freedom that, ironically, begged to be shared. And so on that summer night as Antioch slumbered you tried to show me your death, artfully crafting the words that painted a picture of your experience. I followed along with my imagination, indeed believing I could see what you described.
Geoffrey Dylan Thomas, I hope your final journey exceeded the magnificent and wonder you described to me that night.
My own heart aches to know that yours eventually failed you. Thanks to the forethought and kindness of an unfortunate stranger, you were given a few more years to truly touch people's lives. I wonder how you felt in those first few moments after you woke up from the surgery. Did you wake and listen for the familiar clicking of the artificial heart valves? I wonder if you mourned their absence. I wonder how you felt to know you now marched to a new beat of someone's indescribably extraordinary gift.
When I think of you, Geoffrey Thomas, I think of the the mysteries of life and death and how you regarded them with equal reverence. When I think of you, Geoffrey Thomas, I think of how you taught me and others to hear the earth's heartbeat through rhythm and song. How beautiful it is then that you led the members of The Heartbeats to tell the miraculous stories of life after heart or lung transplants through the rhythm of drums and bongos.
Geoff, when I think of you I think of a lot of things, but in the end I can sum them all up with one word: life -- for you were so full of it. You embraced it and took command of it because you knew what most of us still can't fathom: it is only borrowed... and for too short a time.
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