I have looked forward to this night for the past several weeks. There was so much I wish I had said to my brother before he died. Who knew he would die so young. I was just beginning to know him as an artist. He was a fairly quiet, reserved person, so I thought giving him his space and not pushing for information would allow him to gradually open up to me. I know that pushing wouldn't have helped any, but I do regret not being more communicative on my part, even if he didn't answer my e-mails.
As soon as the sun set, I was at the docks waiting for a ferry ride to the Isle of Ancestors. There was only one ferry ready that early. The ferry captain looked at me with knowing, gentle eyes, got me settled, and kindly left me to my thoughts. I searched my memories for glimmers of Stan. He was 7 years older than me, so we didn't interact much as kids. Even when we were older, he had his life and I had mine. By the time I hit high school, he was taking some part-time classes at college. Everything I was doing was elementary to him. He was a certified genius. After high school he went to a school to learn drafting. He worked with a band doing their lights and sound. He went to college to learn computer programming and that's the industry he remained in. I remember him writing programs for games on his computer. He let me play one with him once. I beat him, so he deleted the game. It was obviously too random if I could beat him. ;-)
As the ferry approached the Isle, a shiver entered my body. I remembered the fire in the cave when I visited here before. I told myself it would take the shiver away, even though I knew the shiver had nothing to do with a chill. I was plenty warm. I wobbled a bit standing up so the ferry captain helped me ashore. I stood on the sandy beach for a moment to regain my balance. I assured the captain I was alright because she said she wouldn't leave me otherwise. I knew this was just nervousness and fear, though I wasn't sure why I was feeling this. I wasn't meeting a monster or learning a hard lesson. I was just meeting my brother to say those things I wish I had said years ago.
The ferry far from view, I watched the stars and the moon shimmer on the water. I sat down in the sand for a moment and took in deep breaths of the night air. I calmed my nerves and reminded myself, all will be well.
I headed down the familiar path to the stoney entrance to the cave that would bring me to Stan. I wondered if he would be here already or if I would have to wait for him. I wanted to run through the caverns to the meeting room. Knowing I would be disappointed if he wasn't there when I arrived, I held myself back, just a bit. Along each passageway I strain my sight in the search for a shadow, a profile, a hint of a presence. When the entryway finally comes into view, I can't see the fireplace or the meeting table. I had forgotten from my previous visit that you never know who is in the room until you enter and sit at the table. I pause at the entrance, take a deep breath, and enter the room. There, at the table, is a hooded figure. It's just got to be Stan! He couldn't have let someone else take his place this evening. Not this time. Not tonight.
I slowly make my way to the table, praying with each step that my visitor is Stan. There's so much to say, so much to learn...so much left undone. Please, don't be in death as you were in life -- closed off from me.
Trembling slightly, I sit at the table and look down at it's well-worn wood. I look for a hand on the table and see a man's hand. This has to be Stan! I look up to the image in the photo Stan took of himself in June. This isn't his best picture, but it's the most recent picture I have of him, so I suppose that's all I can see. I reach out and hold his
hand and look into his eyes. With tears rolling down my cheeks I cry, "I'm sorry!" My sadness shows as concern on Stan's face. "I know you didn't want us to be sad, I know you wanted us to throw a party in your honor...but I am sad. I know it is selfish, but I wasn't ready for you to go! I wasn't prepared. I thought it was all a fluke. I didn't know your cancer was so bad...but, you didn't let us know."
Stan nodded with a sorrowful expression on his face. He was about to speak, but I knew I needed to say all I had come to say or I would never get it out.
"Stan, I love you. I know I never said that when you were alive, and that was stupid on my part. I care about you. I wish I would have shown it in a million ways. I wish I could have been there for you. I wish I would have told you so many things, like, you are one amazing artist. I admire you and your work. Your images inspire me and amaze me. I wish I could have talked with you more about your art and your photography. There was so much I could have learned from you. I was hoping we could work together as artists as we got older. But I never said any of this. I thought I had time. I don't know why a little red flag didn't go up when you first mention having cancer. I should have said more and done more THEN! And now it is too late. I'm sorry."
I looked down at the table and wiped the tears from my face. I could tell Stan was surprised...that he didn't know how much he was cared for and respected and looked up to. He squeezed my hand, holding it tight. I saw a tear of his splash on the tabletop. I looked up to his eyes again and saw his tears but noticed he was smiling.
"You don't know how good it feels to be here and hear you say those things. There's nothing for you to be sorry for. You did as much as I allowed you to do. If you would have tried to do more, I wouldn't have let you...I may have even gotten angry with you. I didn't want anyone to do anything because I didn't want to believe I had cancer. I didn't want to believe it could beat me. The more people did things for me, the more I knew I would resign into the disease. I thought I was smart enough to beat it. I thought if I did everything the doctors told me to do and added a few natural remedies, too, I had nothing to worry about. Robin beat it! I could beat it!"
His tears came harder and faster. Now I understood why he couldn't let the cancer take its course. He had to be in control and take his life before cancer did. He couldn't let cancer win. He never believed it would get as bad as it did...and since it had, he couldn't let it continue.
"I'm so sorry cancer ended your life. I wish doctors had better answers. I'm sorry you felt so defeated. Your last days must have been hell on earth."
"They were the worst days of my life. But since then, it's been all uphill. This moment, here with you, though it brought back the pain of my last days for a moment, it has also brought me great joy. I'm sorry I won't grow old with you. I'm sorry we won't share our artistry together. You do know that I will always be with you. I know it sounds trite, but I will. You have the photos I've taken. Use them. Let them inspire you. We can still colloborate with our art. Use my photos to create. My spirit, my vision remains in those photos. They will guide you to look deeper and create."
"I hope I can do your photos justice. They will not die with you. I will continue to share them with others so that they may see the beauty of your soul."
"I know that whatever you do with my photos, you will only make nature's radiance shine through even more. From what I've seen, you aren't a bad artist yourself. I know your intensions are good. I can see the goodness about you. By the way, your spirit glows in an abundance of color. I wish I could take a picture of it so you could see."
"I think I can see it...at least a little, just by your description."
"Anyway, I know you'll do wonderful things with my photos. You can't go wrong when you intensions are good. Use them as you would an artist's palatte. Have fun! Celebrate the beauty of nature. I am thrilled to give these to you. And I know you will treasure them more than any money I could give....which, you obviously know, I had nothing to give."
"And I wouldn't want your money, Stan. If I could wish for anything, it would be for you to be back...to be happy and healthy....to be here to share in the joy I'll receive working with your photos...to get your opinion...to see with your artistic eye."
"Like I said, I'll be there in every photo. Listen. You'll hear me. You'll witness my artistic eye. You'll learn more from my photos than anything I could have taught you."
"I will listen. I will try to hear you. I'll do my best."
"And that's all you can do."
"I love you."
"I know you do."
I knew there was nothing more to say. I was drained of words. I was filled with his presence and knew I could carry on his vision. I was thrilled by the opportunity to use his photos in my art. I knew, no matter what obstacles may be ahead in dealing with the legalities of it all, it will all work out. Stan will be watching over the situation and will make sure nothing keeps me from working with his photos.
I have some mighty big shoes to fill, is all I could think as I made my way back to the ferry. Stan's artistry is amazing and he was always so humble about it. The spirit of understated greatness accompanied me back to North Star Studios. I spent most of the night on the roof reliving my conversation with Stan as I watched the stars and planets. I knew Stan was there, in the sky, riding the shooting star I saw heading towards the horizon at dawn.