‘Silence the pianos, and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come..’
Scott Harrison, known by so many of us as Pie, died on January 16 2018, just one month after his 46th birthday.
We met in 1999 and became lovers for four years. Over the years since our friendship had some downs but in recent years – deepened and nurtured us both. His death was a shock to so many of us.
I just got back to NYC from his funeral in Erie, Pa. I wrote this on the ride back.
The tears don’t stop. Sorry fellow passengers on this crowded flight.
His beautiful and heartbroken family with warm welcome, honored me to be a pallbearer along with some of his siblings and nephews, bringing his body in and out of the church. The casket so much heavier than he ever was. They dressed him in his favorite Superman T-shirt and black jeans. His brother Timmy told me he had placed the book that Pie once gave him into the casket – ‘Superman is Dead.’
The music and hymns were gorgeous. He would have sang along – and did. I swear I heard him. And yes he had a lot to say to and about the Catholic dogma that he walked away from to embrace the fiery faerie path of spirit but soul is soul and this means so much to his mother and family and he respected that. Every psalm and hymn and prayer soared and seared the heart. There is comfort in the old rituals and rehearsed traditions that meet us when we are facing mystery with open aching hearts.
The family prepared a program with poems, one of them by W.H. Auden, lamenting his lover, quoted above. So perfect. Just two months ago Pie and I walked past and once again noted the plaque on St Marks Place marking Auden’s home, just two houses down from where he had spent so many years, his last mailing address. We talked of Auden and poetry over Ramen that night.
Much liturgy about the resurrection. I know these hopes from Jewish contexts, equally freaked out by these catholic notions of one day the dead will rise and we will reunite again with loved ones.
I get the yearning and the power of the comforting promise. But I do not think or feel it is about the flesh. I felt him as I feel him now, soul winking, blinking, twinkling within. If there is a resurrection it is that of our essence that is perhaps what we call soul, sometimes, truly present. I feel his now. But how we miss the voice, the laugh, the hug, the smell, the touch, the touch of presence. That’s when the longing comes.
We drove to Mary Mother of Peace cemetery for the final rites. Miles and miles of snow.
How he loved the Divine Mother. In her many blessed faces. Now his brave body, finally at peace, so tired of fighting, rests within her.
I was asked to say a few words and mentioned all of you – all of us – so touched by him in so many ways over the years. I spoke on the behalf of the lovers and fans and friends who love and miss him. I hope that’s ok..
How he embodied PieO’Pa – genderless boundary crossing wounded healer leaving mischief and kindness behind. How he chose love. Again and again despite so much trouble. How he lived with HIV with dignity and pride. How he created beauty. How he cared for others.
He and I once began writing a book together, maybe a graphic novel, we were not sure, and we wanted to call it GODUS – the new face of the feminine masculine neither and more divine within us all. Somewhere there are drafts.
I vowed in the presence of his last remaining moment on this earth, coffin covered by red carnations, and I do so now, that this project, dedicated to him, will be created. The vision of GODUS – Everything he loved and lived, and now his legacy.
I was so lucky to be his lover, his friend. Many of us were. In many different ways, we know more now, he was and is our teacher.
In my pocket I carried a small bag with soil from my back yard in Manhattan. He and I lived together at this address on and for many years since 1999, some as lovers, some as friends. This was his last address. The fistfuls of soil contained fragments of a disco ball long ago shattered. Oh how he loved to dance.
His coffin is placed in the mausoleum so instead of adding this soil to that I emptied the bag in front of the marker of the Mother of Peace guarding the cemetery. Earth to earth.
I took fistfuls of snow and fragments of branches found at her feet to bring to the Maypole in Short Mountain this coming Beltane. We will dance, there and elsewhere, often and again, with his soul in our hearts.
I know many of us are grieving and hurting, some of us alone. I hope that this helps bring us closer to each other at this time, if briefly, if through words and screens.
Those of you who wish to help co-create a memorial celebration for Pie in NYC in the few weeks – please be in touch with me directly.
And finally the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, printed on the memorial cards printed in Pie’s memory:
“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave this world a bit better; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.”
Oh Pie, my love, my friend, my teacher. I miss you so much.
Rest In Peace. Never forgotten. Forever present. Tears and soil and all.
Imagine that door opening. Blink.
January 25 2018