The memorial was held at the “Surf and Sand” room on the stunning Asilomar Conference grounds in Pacific Grove. Even though most of Pauls’ relatives live out of the area, they chose the town he had lived in the longest. The room was amazing. All glass walls so you can see the beautiful sand dunes outside. Paul would have liked that.
There were several people there when we arrived, including my “support friend” Scott. He did know Paul casually but came mostly to support me. I’m glad he did, I needed it. He’d already picked up the memorial photo, and bookmarks with various photos of Paul and family members that his sister had made, a very cool idea. And then there were song sheets with several Dylan songs. “Blowin In The Wind”, “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, “Like A Rolling Stone”, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, and one by Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now.” Paul’s favorites.
While we sat there waiting for the service to begin Paul’s sister Hannah, and Sesshu’s wife came and introduced themselves. We just sat there, I was in no shape to be introducing myself to anyone since I was already either in tears, or holding my breath so as not to cry. I’ve learned that works.
Paul’s brother, Sesshu, gave the eulogy. He started by reading the events that were happening in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the times of Paul’s childhood and young adulthood. The drastic, mostly violent changes our country was going through during those years. He tucked in some of what was going on with Paul during those times.
One of the stories he told was when Paul came home wearing a shirt patterned after the American flag, not unusual at the time. They were living with his bachelor uncle who never wanted his divorced sister and her seven children living with him anyway. This shirt really set his uncle off, he it off of Paul and began hitting, and hitting, and hitting him with it. I don’t know what would have happened if Sesshu hadn’t intervened. I’m not sure how long after that he was kicked out of the house, but I know he never lived at home again after 12 years of age.
He continued with more details of Paul’s life, which I knew were violent, but not as violent as I’d realized. Poor Paul, yes Sadie is right. No wonder he drank. It was a way of survival. “Self-medication” is the term we use today.
He read several excerpts from journals Paul wrote during his three tries at rehab and some letters from him as well. Some very personal and raw, others that made us all chuckle.
He spoke for what seemed like ages and then he was done. How could he describe the life of someone he’d known all of his life in just a few minutes? Someone who’d kept his sense of humor and sense of wonder through all the pain and heartbreak he’d experienced? Such a special man who never became bitter despite it all?
But wait, what about the letter I’d given him to read! My fond memories of the sweet, gentle Paul I’d known for years and saw almost daily! I swung my head around to see where he’d gone. Damn, why didn’t I say I’d read it myself? At that moment I felt desperate and almost had the burst of courage I needed to read it myself. How could I let my friend down?
After he finished speaking however, his daughter invited anyone who had something to say to come up. The girl behind me, a relative I’m sure, stood up and said she was glad to have the opportunity to read this letter. And it was mine. I did pretty much lose it then, but at the same time I was so glad that it finally got read. I wanted everyone there to know who “my” Paul was.
We sang the songs which was actually fun. But it’s hard to sing when you’re sobbing so hard that your stomach is in spasms and you can’t read through the tears. I had to lay down the song sheets and just let myself sob. Luckily the singing was loud enough so no one could hear me.
But I know Paul would have gotten a good laugh out of hearing his family and friends butcher his favorite songs.
My love to you forever, to the most special friend I will ever have.