Sunday, June 28, 2009

Too Young to Die

I haven't had the heart or the time to write recently. In the month of May and the first half of June, I was just too busy preparing for the Buddhist Festival.

The day of the festival, my godson and nephew Zachary David Hoogstra was in a car accident. He died on June 15.

I flew to Wisconsin to be with my family and attend his memorial service. The room was filled with friends, family, friends of family, and work connections.

My family lost my brother when he turned 22. Zac was born 6 months later, and was given my brother David's name for his middle name. He brought life back to my family. Zac was shaped in some ways by the absence of his uncle, now he too is dead at 22. Zac was, as are his 20 year old brothers, very quiet, taciturn, with that wall-faced Midwest rock of a presence. I wished I knew him better than I did. At the memorial, his mother was gratified to hear so many stories of his life from his friends, so many things she didn't know. I wished I had stood at the podium and asked those people to be brave enough to share them again. When asked for a few words, his brother Jake said something about Zac's "silent faith." A young woman read a familiar poem between sobs, and the whole room was sniffling. Zac's mother hadn't known he signed up to be an organ donor. I was told 8 people were recipients of his organs.

Zac's brothers are slightly older than I was when my brother died. Right now I know they are planning their tattoos in memory. I am thinking I may do so too.

My brother and his family planted a tree in Zac's memory. His friends planted the bench next to it.

Zac lived most of his life on this land my brother bought from our grandpa's sister. It was our great-grandparents' homestead. My grandma told stories about stirring the syrup in the sugar shack with her guy. Most of the maple trees had been culled, but the apple orchard remained when my brother moved in. There are a few trees still producing apples. A pear tree once graced the back yard. Now, a coach has had a pear tree planted in memoriam.

My family started planting trees in memoriam when my brother died. Soon to come, a tour of the back yard of my childhood home. Many deaths to remember. No mustard seed can be found there.

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