Perhaps my mother and I have never been particularly visual people. Unable to see or care about what is in our face, or to remember the faces of people we have met repeatedly…which would explain something like what follows…
Years and years ago, we decided to show my then-partner, C, the film The Right Stuff. I don’t remember why now, but I do remember sitting down and watching the first/an early scene, and both my mom and I commenting, “Wow, they sure look young.” We were, of course, referring to Sam Shepard (RIP) and Barbara Hershey. C incredulously demanded, “Well, who the hell are they?” We’d seen the film a bunch of times so we knew who they were, but C had no clue what he was even seeing – silhouettes of indistinguishable people, apparently, so he decided to adjust the color on the TV, only to find we’d been watching something that was so ridiculously dark that we too might have exclaimed, “Who the hell are they?” if we had not seen the film before. I still laugh at this sometimes, and of course, it came up again with the news of Sam Shepard’s recent passing.
In another one of those tiny coincidences, where little things cross your path at just the right moment, I had just read Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, only a few days before Shepard died. I had had no intention of writing about it; it was one of my filler reads – interesting, entertaining, engaging, but nothing so thought-provoking it warranted analysis or further discussion. Yet I learned in reading it that she’d had a relationship with and was a near-lifelong friend of Shepard’s, which struck me as strange at first, but then as I read, it felt more and more fitting (not that I know these people to comment on what was strange or not. Like almost everything – we decide what’s strange based on some surface perception). She’s written about this most recent loss as well.
Then I remembered this truly beautiful video of Patti Smith that I had seen last year, just after my uncle died, in which she discusses dealing with death: “all of these people that we lose, and this is what I mean by experience, they’re all within us. They become part of our DNA. They become part of our blood.”