My dear friend and esteemed composer and musician died on Thursday evening. Yesterday there was a memorial held for him on the upper west side. Paul had been diagosed with a brain tumor about two years ago, and since then had undergone numerous surgeries and treatments. I saw him a week ago in the hospital and he seemed so vital, coherent and alive that we all expected him to live at least another two months. However, his breathing failed and he died in his sleep unexpectedly.
The following is what I wrote and spoke at the memorial, which mostly was thoughts and reflections from his vast array of friends.
Paul celebrated death as he celebrated life. In the last 2 years in the face of his illness, Paul reached out, embraced all his friends and brought us together in his own unique way, which ultimately was to celebrate. Rather than contract and feel sorry for himself he softened and extended his love out in all directions, inviting everyone in.
I have known Paul for 27 years. We met in SF in the Bohemia Cigar Cafe in 1977. I was having a drink with a friend and he walked in with a friend of his. At the end of the evening we had paired off, me with his friend, and him with mine. Both our affairs were short lived, but Paul and I remained friends and stayed in touch, visiting each other in the various cities we both have lived in. He was also my guitar teacher for a while, and when he visited me in Rome he played for the dance class I taught.
Last May before I left for a 3 months journey to Rome, Paul and I had dinner together. It was as important for him as it was for me to make contact with each other before my long absence. I wanted to let him know that I was with him despite the distance and he wanted to let me know that he was rooting for every bit of joy and success to come to me. As we were ordering food I asked him about his diet and what he was allowed to eat. He said, “Everything and that he was enjoying each bite.”
Paul’s many parties was his way of celebrating his life, bringing all of us close to him, and also it was his way of bringing all his friends together. Around Paul we have created a community; and community is much needed today.
Sometimes for me going out at night on the weekend is an effort because of the 2 or 3 subways it takes to get into the city from Greenpoint. However, since Paul’s been sick I made an effort, even if I didn’t feel like it, knowing that every opportunity to celebrate with him was a gift. But it was not only about celebrating with him it was a wake up call to celebrate LIFE.
His amazing courage awakened in me the desire to live each moment of life with gratitude no matter how difficult, and his strong and luminous spirit reminded me how important it is to “celebrate life,” and not to put off enjoying it for the future.
Paul had the courage to ask for what he wanted and what he wanted was what we all want and need most; LOVE and friendship. He reminded me to remember that we are not alone and that when we feel loneliness or fear we need only to reach out and ask for the love and support we need.
One of the things that I loved about Paul was his laughter, because it came from deep within his being. I am sure that the essence of that boundless joy has taken him to the other side and will continue to resonate within all our hearts.
***I have invited friends and family to post thoughts for Paul. The following is from his wife, Marta:
I know Paul wherever he is will celebrate his birthday as he always fully enjoyed
and celebrated life. It is a lonely world out here without the one I love and in learning to live without Paul I almost feel I am relearning to live . I do feel bad of not being next to Paul when he passed but I have been next to him so many times in the hard moments in the last two years, prior to being
operated, after the operations, after each MRI and I know that was a great comfort for him. I am also trying to understand what I have learned from this
experience and how it has changed me. I have become more compassionate and appreciate relationships with other people much more, I truly understand that life is not forever is a gift that we have to value every moment, that having a passion like Paul had his music is a blessing and helps soften the blows of life.
More from Marta:
I accept Paul's passing maybe because I come from a different culture or aybe because I saw him suffering and I know what was coming down the road. But what I want to hold on to is how this has changed me, I have become a more compassionate and caring person, i do not want to revert to my shallow self :). I would like to build on what I have become and try to get to that higher place where he was when he passed away. It was an extrodinary journey living next to this man, seeing how his passion for music transcended his illness, how he reached out and loved people and people loved him in return. He worked on his music up to the day he was hospitalized.When he first went to Calvary he was very upset but after his friends started visiting I remember seeing him and being happy because his face was shining like a star from all the joy of being able to share precious moments with them.
Posted by Barbara at January 24, 2005 09:04 AM