Church photo © 2001 Lee Briggs. Used with permission.
In May of that year, I returned to New York City, this time with Brian. The tree behind Saint Paul’s Church was in leaf. Rhododendrons were in flower up the street at City Hall, and wild roses were blooming in Battery Park. We saw the leaves uncurl, the flowers open. To this mystery, we also bore witness.
In the park, we sat by the water and ate lunch, watching the kids line up with their parents for ice cream and boat rides. The crowd was subdued. We felt how still the air was.
We visited Phil and Joanne in White Plains. Over dinner, they described a local candlelight vigil, held to commemorate the dead of 9/11. Phil spoke about how moved they’d been by the hundreds of people who’d assembled in the dark with candles lit. As a participant in many such vigils and demonstrations, I’d never felt free to share with my brother their impact on my life or the wondrous sense of community that they generated. Many of these gatherings had addressed my own fears of a runaway arms race, and my brother, for much of his life, had found fear an inadmissible emotion (As a Reagan Republican, this particular fear made little sense to him). Now life had, for a moment, shifted us from separate islands toward a common shore, a depth of truth.
That evening I took a picture Phil and Jo. This was to be our last meeting and the last photo I’d ever take of them together. It sits now, framed, on the mantel in our living room. Before it is an unlit candle.
…More on Monday.