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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 9, Number 2, June 2015

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Bill Gottlieb
Cobb, California, USA


Deathday

six days before the first anniversary of your death

Anniversary once meant the day a saint died. Saint Denise, we’d joke after someone said or wrote how brave you were, battling cancer. But why not canonize you now in front of a few eyes? Didn’t you readily adore your Lord? Didn’t you endure the worst wounds a woman could for more love?

Your last words to me were, “Would you sit by my side till I fall asleep? That would be so nice.” “Of course,” I lullabied. Minutes later you retired to the ethers of the other world, where for 14 hours you sampled halos.

Such a long odd sleep I thought in the morning, never once considering that this was the last day of your life; not even when, around ten, your body disappeared in the Lord’s golden light as I sat on the edge of the couch sipping tea, saying his name. I looked at you in the broad globe of his blessing and went about my business, sub celestial.

(It wasn’t the first time I’d seen you inside his radiant space, peace, care. Sixteen months before your exit, miserable in the hospital—heartburn hissing its corrosions, bloat like a poltergeist puking sour stew, stomach stoppered by tumors—in an interlude of rare rest you vanished within his lustrous surround.)

About an hour later—just minutes after your sacred orange-and-black burial shawl was couriered from halfway round the world to your dwindling body by two women with whom you’d shared more than thirty years of friendship, worship (“I love you,” said one; “I love you, too,” you concluded)—you died, breathing fiercely as a mother giving birth, and you were: to yourself, out the top of your head, as the Lord says we perishing humans do. I held one hand, its wrist delicate, pulse less.

A few weeks after you passed I was given two visions while in a bodiless trance. In the first I felt you luminous in the Lord, as an image germinated light from form, radiance from lake, the holy lake where we liked to walk, near kingfishers sprightly as flying souls. In the next I was taught like a rapt boy about identity, “Denise” and “Billy” fleshed shallows inside essential shining. Timeless kindness quieted and widened my heart, and I reposed some moments by death, a companion I was not born to overcome.

winter solstice
no need to intend
more light

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