A bit of background: when Reema died, and it was time to go to her viewing, I wanted to bring something. Anything. That had something to do with her. I went to the basement to look through some of the boxes there. In the very first box I opened, on the very top, was a picture of her from my wedding. One I hadn’t seen in years. Believe in whatever higher power you like. It’s certain someone was giving me an assist. At the wake, her mother, Mona, said Reema always remembered that day and said it was her first performance in what was supposed to be a long career of entertaining people with her wonderful dancing. Her father, Joey, who saw me pull the picture from the pocket of my jacket, said, “You keep that right there.”
I wanted to make a copy of that picture and leave it at the memorial on the Virginia Tech campus during my trip to the VPI campus this year. But I couldn’t find it while I was packing. I knew exactly where it was. The top drawer of my dresser. But look and look as I might, I couldn’t find it in that drawer. As I was about to go out the door, I looked in that drawer again and it was there. Where it was supposed to be. Got it!
Now, with little time and no color ink in my scanner, I decided to take a flier on getting the job done in my near-Blacksburg hotel once I got there. Well, turns out the clerk could only produce a B&W version, but, get this, he used to work for VPI campus security, and was one of the first officers to respond to the shootings in Norris Hall. He was there. With her (or at least near her) when she was dying.
Come gameday, upon finding a place to park with no sign-related help from campus officials, Matt and I depart to find the memorial. And, believe it or not, we had never met in person before that day. It’s an electronic world. Now, it’s raining, and we’re a good half-mile away from the memorial according the VPI student who gave us directions. I say to Matt, hey, you don’t have to come with me if you don’t want. He responds, “No, this is important.” His words. I’ll never be able to thank him enough. This is the effect Reema has on people who never knew her. In that way, she is not dead.
After a few detours, we get there. The slight and then increasing rain had become a steady shower. The memorial is a semi-circle with each of the victims’ names inscribed on a stone. We found Reema's and I explain to Matt that I have a song I wanted to listen to on my MP3 player. “Kissing Families” by the Silversun Pickups. I had just discovered them days before Reema died and I think it’s the line “It’s everything that is connected and beautiful” that does it for me. Plus, there’s an angry point in the tune which mirrors my feelings about this unnecessary event. So, Matt stands there getting soaked in the rain with me while I run this song at max volume for the next five minutes or so. I had written a note on the copy of the photo from my wedding, telling Reema how beautiful she was that day, how much we missed her, and how she was supposed to be sitting next to me at the game instead of watching from above. Taking a cue from someone else’s visit, I used pieces of gravel that make up part of the border to secure the note in front of her stone. I’m sure the rain soon dissolved the paper, allowing the ink to soak into the ground and stay there forever.
It doesn’t end there. A fan of Dukies.com, who was also at the game, continually asked me if I was going to the memorial, when I was going to the memorial and how was it at the memorial, despite the fact that he had other professional concerns to distract him. This started days before the game, continued in the pre-game warm-ups and days afterward via email. I will always, always appreciate his attention on that difficult day. And guess what? This was also a person I’d never met in person before. Another demonstration that Reema is still with us in a way we just simply can’t see.
Oh, there’s more. Later, I sent this fellow the material I wrote for this site on the first anniversary of her death, which involved a relation between her life and the garden I started the day after she died, the celebration of the departed with annual new growth here on Earth. And he responds by forwarding this incredible poem he got from a friend he considers a sister:
“Strange things about the sun--how often after it has set, and we are able to see it no more, it leaves behind a beauty we can never see while we have it with us.
“About the sun we know this truth, that if it seems to be setting where we are, it is because it is rising somewhere else--rising, and still shinning with its same radiance and warmth.
“We know, too, that in reality it never sets at all; for it is we ourselves who are temporarily turned away from it. Moreover, we are certain that we shall see it again."
Amazing. Sent within minutes. And a celestial analogy of my gardening story. That’s exactly what she brings out in people, even ones who never met her, even now. This isn’t a story about me; it’s about Reema. The hotel clerk who was on the scene. The friend of the site with his, once again, amazing immediate guidance. And Matt walking by my side through mud and rain and standing while I touched the stone with her name engraved on it. And it’s a story about the many of you who have responded in the comments section whenever I have come here to … tell you folks about her. There have been many over the last two years, here are just a few:
Bluedevilruss: “not gonna lie to you it got a little dusty in the apartment here reading your piece about Reema. I thought about that at the game and said a little prayer for you guys. basketball is secondary. just a sport.”
Jamie Koch: “A little dusty indeed.”
Josh: “It was good to read what you wrote about Reema, duhomme.”
Matt: “I'm very humbled - - there's no other word for it - - by what duhomme wrote about me. I think anyone would have done the same.” (Don’t be. What you did was incredible. I don’t know if I could have made that long walk alone. – duhomme
Jake: “A very heartfelt thanks for your material on Reema. It was lovely and much appreciated. As a father of a daughter her age, it touched me deeply. I know her memory will live on.”
CDG: “duhomme - thank you for sharing something that is intensely personal and probably quite difficult. We have all been privileged to get to know Reema through your moving tribute to her over the past two seasons. I echo Jake and others when I say that despite the unbearable loss, her memory does live on.”
Andrew Hicks: “duhomme, thank you for sharing about Reema, both in this writeup and over the past difficult months, almost two years now. All of us readers of dukies.com continue to remember her, and you.”
Anonymous: “I wanted to say how deeply affected I was…….couldn’t really get it out, but you and your family will always be in my prayers………”
Bluedevilyn: “She dances on, duhomme, she dances on.”
That is just a few, and sorry to those of you I left out. There have been many, many more of you who have gotten to know Reema here. Thank you, all of you, who shared in the loss of this treasure of a person. The one I first met when she reached out for my hand at the age of two because she was afraid to walk down a hill. That’s who I remember (I try!). And a really big thanks to Matt for letting me use this space to talk about her. In this little corner of the internet, her memory lives on. In this way, she is not dead. But I still miss her, and the world is just not as bright as it could be. And never will be. Of course, somewhere else, she dances on . . .
"You know who I am," he said
The speaker was an angel
He coughed and shook his crumpled wings
Closed his eyes and moved his lips
"It's time we should be going"
- - David Bowie