Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Life and Death, or Rather the Love and Death of Daniel Ray Luna (1981-2005)

This is the Eulogy Scott gave at our oldest nephews Funeral, Daniel Luna.
Daniel Ray Swaner Luna was a mere 23 years old at the time of his death.
It was unexpected, harsh, and difficult on our entire family.
Most especially, my sister, Sue and Dan's siblings.
Other than his brothers Scott was not only Dan's uncle, but his best friend and mentor.

Scott was diagnosed with Stage IV Terminal Pancreatic Cancer 13 months after eulogizing Dan.
I can only hope that they are somewhere together,
with my Mom, listening and playing Jazz, reading and writing poems-
with Scott on the Sax and Dan on the piano or guitar.

Scott's mentions Daniel in this blog on several occasions-
Dedicated at least two full posts and wrote a poem titled, The Premonition.

You can look the post up in the "search" available at the top of this post-
and hopefully, soon, I will become more fluent in the blogging process
and be able to link the post and poem here.

“The Life and Death, or Rather the Love and Death
of Daniel Ray Luna (1981-2005)—In Memoriam”

2 March 2005, Salt Lake City, Utah

How do we begin? How do we remember Daniel Ray Luna?
What do we do with our love for him now that he’s gone?

My mother told me something growing up, an aphorism, one that I always took as part of her personal store of wisdom.
Of difficult times she would say: “If it doesn’t kill us, it will only make us stronger.”
It was only much later I learned that someone before her had also said this—Nietzsche.
It made for a curious connection and it was burned into my memory.
Now another line from Nietzsche comes to mind: “—pain is the most powerful aid to mnemonics”
(On the Genealogy of Morals 61). Not that we would otherwise forget. . .

In trying to make sense of this, of death and trauma, of frustrated youth
and one amazing soul being torn from what seemed to be the whole fabric of life—
all this in Daniel’s passing—I have been looking more carefully at death to understand that fabric,
now with a gaping hole that surrounds me. Look around. It surrounds all of us.
Daniel’s departure left this hole for everyone who knew him.
Daniel’s very existence showed us that his was an amazing soul—he would either shine or extinguish,
but would not live, or could not live--like so many of us do--in the spaces in-between.
His was not a common soul. When he smiled you sensed this: he either smiled as if he knew something you didn’t,
or he laughed in complete transparency.

Since the middle of Friday night, when too many of us were ripped from an ignorant sleep,
I’ve been searching for “death.” What now? What next?
The more I looked around for “death” the more I found that another term, another experience,
always seemed to occupy the same page:
wherever I found “death” I seemed to find “love,” someone’s love.
This poem is one example:

“42. love is more thicker than forget”

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky (CP 530)

So there we have it, from the poet e.e. cummings: we have love and memory,
we have love over death, and we have love above all else.
Is there anything else we see with more brilliant clarity at this moment?
“That which takes place out of love takes place beyond good and evil” (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil 103).
In love, in acts of love, in acts of loving memory, we are not working in conflict with someone else’s version of right
and wrong.
Today in memoriam, we are not here as believers and non-believers, as faithful and faithless,
we are here as family. The family first, the family beyond forgetting, the family of Daniel Ray.

When we think of death we are most commonly strictured in our minds by what we assume is the usual pairing of experiences and feelings—in other words, the pair, Life and Death.
This, however, begs the question: should we think of these as a natural pair?
The answer is no: rather, it should be thought as Love and Death.
Because life and death are not opposites, they are the same.
Love and death are opposed, and yet complimentary.
It is through love that death acquires meaning, it is through love that death becomes more than Nothingness with a capital “N.”
I used to know a poet who would say of poetry, and therefore of life,
that “Fear of loss is every lover’s fear.”
If death is the personification of loss, then the lover, is left alone by death,
alone to live on until released from, or reconstituted by that loss.

To state it differently, without love death means nothing, it is scientific, numerical, and perfunctory.
To say this is to disagree with e.e. cummings, elsewhere, where he writes,
“And death i think is no parentheses.”
That is the final line in one of his poems, and coupled with the line before it, we see a fuller picture:

for life’s not a paragraph
And death i think is no parentheses (CP 291).

Life, of course, as Daniel has reminded us, it simply dies: death, of course,
is already dead, leaving us with love alone.
Love alone survives.
Love alone resists.
To put it in the harshest possible light, love alone is too goddam stubborn
or stupid to know any better.
So we are left here, after Dan, either too ignorant or too intransigent, standing gaping around this frightful
rent in life’s fabric.
The gaping hole in meaning were Daniel used to stand.

How long will the edge of this fabric support us? We wonder while we weep and gaze into that oblivion.
On this side of death we are only left to remember—
with pain as the most powerful reminder; we are left to be chastened, at least a little;
and we are left to be admonished, somehow, next time, to do better.

Again, from e.e. cummings:

“dying is fine)but Death”

dying is fine)but Death


wouldn’t like

Death if Death

when (instead of stopping to think)you

begin to feel of it,dying
‘s miraculous

cause dying is

perfectly natural;perfectly
it mildly lively(but


is strictly
& artificial &

evil & legal)

we thank thee god
almighty for dying

(forgive us,o life!the sin of Death (CP 604)

And finally this, to Daniel,
whose flame burned hot before flickering and being snuffed:

death (having lost) put on his universe
and yawned:it looks like rain
(they’ve played for timelessness
with chips of when)
that’s yours;i guess
you’ll have to loan me pain
to take the hearse,
see you again. (CP 451)©©©

Scott H Swaner

© Scott H Swaner
used with permission
from the Scott H Swaner foundation fund.

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