Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Requiem aeternam

From my Autobiography Passed Through the Sieve of Maya:

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine

The plane was late and I arrived only minutes before the service was to start. My son and daughter had left the music up to the funeral director, who was not pleased with my insistence on Verdi.

Lacrymosa dies illa.

The scene: an unctuous mortician who speaks too softly and keeps his hands folded in front at all times, a funeral parlor filled with the sickening, overpowering scent of flowers, the deceased in the open casket resembling someone we used to know, but waxy and strangely colored. Dear God, they've gotten his nose wrong. It's much bigger than I remember.

Ah, that day of tears and mourning.

I learned that funeral music is meant to be white noise, to keep people hushed, emotions tethered, everyone miming the embalmer, eyes down, looking properly respectful. The Verdi was a mistake, an intrusion, far too beautiful, drawing our attention away from memories of a life. But it was too late, the service had started. The Requiem's urgent soprano and eerie choral murmurs seemed to admonish me for this choice, for all my choices.

Libera me, Domine.

Relentlessly the music soared, competing with the low murmurs, barely perceptive, discordant notes: "Was it really his heart?" "Why no autopsy?" "They say it might have been suicide."

Deliver me, O Lord. 


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