Ever since I heard the news that Leonard Nimoy died, the song going through my head has been Samuel Barber’s setting of the poem Anthony O’Daly. “Since your limbs were laid out … there is nothing be grief.” (Be warned: It’s a 20th century setting, so it’s not “pretty” in the traditional sense. In fact, I think this particular performance could have had more rage, but it’s a hard piece to sing.)
Then I was thinking of the song American Pie. It’s a rather unexpected paean to a bygone era even though it’s meant to be a tribute to Buddy Holly and others who died in the plane crash in 1959. Don McLean wrapped it up in a rocking musical scrapbook that sounds happy but is really a sad song.
And then I was caught in the middle, between happiness for all of the wonderful memories and sadness for the fact that it is all in the past. It is a difficult emotional state for me to navigate. I am always trying to find a way to feel what I feel, but sometimes even my feelings are a collage that’s hard to sort out.
I remember watching Star Trek (original series) in the evenings when I was a kid. I didn’t understand it all, but I could follow along. It was the same when we watched reruns after school (I even recall one friend’s father decrying a show with a green-skinned, pointy eared character. He called him a Martian; we corrected him). It was basic good guy / bad guy stuff to us, plus some really weird creatures from outer space.
When I was a teenager my mother often lamented that I could not be more like Mr. Spock. She was worn out by the emotional turmoil of adolescence, I think, not realizing that she was part of the problem, I’m sure. But that’s another story.
I recall feeling sad at the end of the Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan film, sad that Spock had died, yet oddly comforted by Nimoy’s voice-over in the closing: “Space, the final frontier . . .” Death is, indeed, the final frontier, and we will never know what it is until we get there; and then we will never be able to tell about the experience to anyone still alive.
I don’t know what I believe about death. I know that I am comforted by the thought of some kind of afterlife, but I have no idea what shape that takes, if it does at all.
But I come back to the craft work I do, the knitting and the sewing that has been with us for more generations than we can count (even if the materials and the tools have changed over time). I often think about how my mom would love to see what I’m working on now, and I comfort myself by thinking she is just on the other side of an ethereal veil, able to see what I’m doing but not to communicate with me about it.
So, perhaps Leonard Nimoy is on the other side of the veil, too, and able to see us in our remembering, perhaps able to comprehend at last the millions of lives that were affected positively by his work as an actor, a director, a photographer, a poet, etc.
I’m just sad, sometimes, that the veil doesn’t allow us communication by any means because there are people I’d like to talk to sometimes, people from whom I’d still like to have a hug and reassurance. Sometimes going forward and having to leave the past behind is difficult.
And that’s why I sew and knit. It’s my little lifeline to what was, and all of the happiness therein.