Sunday, January 2, 2011

Elephant (for Andy Keogh)

Andy Keogh: March 19, 1971-December 27, 2010  (photo credit: Allyson Seconds)
"We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them."
-Little Gidding, T.S. Eliot

There is an elephant in the room. And I feel I need to address it.  

Last week, I received the news that a dear friend of mine had passed away. His name: Andrew Allen Keogh, and I wrote about him here.  Every evening this week, I've been visiting his fan page on Facebook, created by his sister, Jenny. I read the comments posted by friends of Andy, each caught in the undertow of their own private loss. He was both black velvet and cut-throat diamond, our good friend, Andy Keogh, and his early exit tugs at our eyes, and we leak our sorrow.

It's with a clumsy slowness that my mind sinks the fact in: our Andy is no longer with us. My grief feels thick and dull; I hadn't seen or talked to him in years, so the effect of his absence in my case is not immediate.  Instead it is a slow burn, a smoking, numbing hollow to fill the back of my throat and settle like soot in the curl of my ribcage. My sympathies are aimed at those whose pain sears more immediately: the sister who lived with him, the son who survives him. My heart breaks like an egg for the crushing grief pressed upon his great love, a certain unforgettable Karen Simmons, who now bears the misfortune to bereave like a widow.

Let me state for the record: I know I am not only mourning the loss of my dear friend Andy, I am mourning the loss of every death I have ever endured; the good souls & great loves from my personal history that pulled anchor and set sail for other darker shores.  I am mourning my own inevitable-evitable: the sure-fire warranty of my expiration. Death roars like a lion, and I've stuck my head into the maw of the beast, only to catch a glimpse of the infinite, scattering a trail of stars like bread crumbs across the sprawl of the galaxy, ending at the doorstep of my dying breath. 

When I'm in need of comfort, I'll usually look for some soothing quote, usually a book of poetry, usually T.S. Eliot.  Today, I am in need of comfort.  I am in need of words, words to carve out some sort of meaning, words that push past the safety-net of cliches. 
A friend, former co-worker, Amber Magnolia Hill, wrote these touching words regarding our dear friend Andy: 

"Most people are relatively special. That is, more special to the people closest to them than to the other people they come in contact with in their daily lives... But some people, very few, are universally special. Recognized by everyone who meets them as extraordinary. Not because of their looks or celebrity status or even their achievements, but because of their heart. It is innate, this specialness. Andy, more than anyone I know, was such a person.

Dressed all in black and drowning in tattoos, his heart of gold radiated out to all who encountered him. A heart full to bursting with love and compassion for all of humanity. Never did he have a conversation with someone in which they did not receive his full attention, his total presence. He heard and felt everyone fully for just what they are and he knew that we are all alike... Andy strove to help anyone who came to him in any way he could.

Along with his big heart came a brilliant mind. I was blown away... watching him at work, realizing that he could instantaneously categorize information in his brain and store it away for future use. I had never seen anything like it, and I haven't since."

I suppose I want you to see how amazing this man was. That his brilliance still blazes within each of us who knew him, and that our heartache, this raw wound of misery, is still a fair ransom for the price we paid to know him. 

For some reason what comes to mind are tiny micro-moments of Andy: his striped mohair sweater; the way he'd clear his throat before he spoke, his limp when he walked with a cane (after the bite of the brown recluse spider); his delicious curl of a smile; and the one delirious afternoon a million years ago, miles away from any sort of heartbreak, the both of us young, beautiful and indestructible, and Andy shared with me a slice of HIS life, his one and only confidence to me. 

He was a tide-pool of influences and contradictions. His gift was to wear those contradictions with aplomb. He was a bright star dancing tandem with a dark cloud.

Misfit. Musician. Dandy. Dreamer. 

There's a roomful of elephants:  elephants, a lion, divine horsemen & monkeys. And still I'm at a loss of what to say. 

The need for words, now that I have none: I am reduced to quoting, cannibalizing even myself: 

"The heartache is at a low-simmer.  I hope you know that you were loved, Andy. You came and went in the river of my life, and my life is better for it. Handsome, charming, whip-smart and compassion made for the lovely bones of your original style. You are, now were, a one-of-a-kind, and I only hope you left knowing the impact you had on others.
I celebrate your life, Andy, and I will now mourn the loss of it, in mine."

Andy Keogh's memorial takes place this Saturday, January 8th at the Townhouse. I plan to attend to pay my respect to his loved ones, to commiserate this tragic loss with friends, and celebrate Andy Keogh's life. Until then, this blog is on hiatus. I will resume my Citizen's Choice BEST Blog series next week. I've got a handful of wonderful interviews and blog reviews, that I can't wait to share with you.

Only it can wait.

Life beckons. 
                                                                                                                     -Bella Q 

Andy Keogh and THE UPSETS, circa 1997

may have killed the cat; more likely
the cat was just unlucky, or else curious
to see what death was like, having no cause
to go on licking paws, or fathering
litter on litter of kittens, predictably.
Nevertheless, to be curious
is dangerous enough. To distrust
what is always said, what seems,
to ask old questions, interfere in dreams,
leave home, smell rats, have hunches
do not endear cats to those doggy circles
where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
are the order of things, and where prevails
much wagging of incurious heads and tails. 

Face it. Curiosity 
will not cause us to die-
only lack of it will.
Never to want to see
the other side of the hill
or that improbable country
where living is an idyll
(although a probable hell)
would kill us all. 
Only the curious 
have, if they live, a tale
worth telling at all.

Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,
are chaneable, marry too many wives,
desert their children, chill all dinner tables
with tales of their 9 lives.
Well, they are lucky. Let them be
nine-lived and contradictory,
curious enough to change, prepared to pay 
the cat price, which is to die
and die again and again,
each time with no less pain.

A cat minority of one
is all that can be counted on
to tell the truth. And what cats have to tell
on each return from hell
is this: that dying is what the living do,
that dying is what the loving do, and 
that dead dogs are those who do not know
that dying is what, to live, each has to do.

                                                         -Alastair Reid


Anonymous said...

This is so wonderfully true and I thank you again, as I am at an utter loss of words for a proper show of gratitude at this time.

-Jenny Keogh

theequinebovine said...

Q~ You touch my heart. You write so beautifully and I couldn't relate any more than I do. Thankyou for being such a beautiful song bird during these long dark nights.

lul said...

I agree with the others who commented, you really do write beautifully. I'm so sorry about your loss(es), don't get this the wrong way, but what a handsome man he was! Wish you all the best,

the Citizen Rosebud said...

Lula: Andy was so many kinds of handsome. The kind that could pull off the craziest of looks and still look good. The kind that plays in memory as sweet and kind. The kind that is. That does. That kind of handsome.

Thank you. I'm truly writing from the heart, with nothing stoppered. This really is a pivotal point for me. I want to honor the brilliance and kindness of this man.

jemina said...

I am so deeply touched by your sincere and purity of heart Bella, but I also believe that even though your friend was only on earth was just a while, but in those short years, I am sure that Andy had touched many hearts, better his presence even only for a while than nothing at all. I know it sometimes feels so unfair when someone dies and we are still living, still alive, but one day, eventually we will all be reunited again. Sending you Love and Hugs and please know that anytime you need a friend, I am with you, always...

HUGS, PEACE & LOVE to you my dearest friend

mispapelicos said...

What a wonderful post from the heart, I cannot add anything to your wise words, just hold your hand.
Mil besos.

Comtesse de ferveur said...

Thinking of you xxx

Karen said...

That was incredible. You have such a way with words. I too am speechless right now. But that was just beautiful. Thank you so much for letting the world know how truly stunning of a human being he was.

Karen Simmons

Anupriya DG said...

I think we all can feel your pain through these beautifully spoken words Bella.......I'm sure Andy was a wonderful person & he's be happy & at peace wherever he's right now....

And even though he's not amongst us any more.......he'll surely be living in the heart, mind & thoughts of those who was close to him.....

Lots of love & hugs,

Anonymous said...

Great post! Happy 2011:)

Unknown said...

Bella, I am so sorry for your loss. Your words make me feel like I knew him, when I didn't have the opportunity to. I wish I had. He sounds like an amazing being.


Isquisofrenia said...

oh im sorry to hear that. hope your doing fine and we love you!

Anonymous said...

my condolences. A favorite of mine:

For the Anniversary of My Death

by W. S. Merwin
Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

the Citizen Rosebud said...

Thank you Karen. Thank you everybody. @Terri: thank you for sharing the poem. It is touching and definitely deserves a re-read. I am so glad you are sharing it. xo. -Bella Q

BonBon Rose Girls Kristin said...

I'm so ve3ry sorry for your loss. Your tribute is heartbreaking and beautiful.

Elle said...

I'm so so sorry for your loss. This is a touching tribute. You have a wonderful way with words and I wish you all the best. I also find it fitting that you're taking a break to mourn until the memorial.

Anonymous said...

Andy will always be with you. Keep that faith my friend. My deepest sympathies for your loss.
Sending you love and healing light.
XO Mish

Heather Fonseca said...

I'm so sorry Bella! Your tribute is really beautiful. I wish I had known him.


Marissa said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Bella. I wish I could say something eloquent to ease some of your pain, but I think you've said it all. This is a lovely tribute to your friend.

Porkchop Rules said...

touching. Hugs to all his friends and family. He was one of a kind. RIP Andy

Stephanie Loudmouth said...

Bella, you write so beautifully! I didn't know this person, but I feel so much for you. Thank you for letting us see a bit of your personal life. My sympathies.

Lee Oliveira said...

Bella.. At this point the most comfortable words I would say is.. Sorry to hear about Andy and wishing his family and friends are doing ok and hopefully better.
Loosing somebody that you love is painful.. I have lost my best friend last year and that almost killed me.

RIP Andy
Lee xo

tinyjunco said...

ah, Bella, you are one of those rare birds who can sing in those circumstances when the rest of us fall silent. you've written a beautiful tribute to your friend, and i am sure it provides solace to his other friends, family, loved ones...

just about a year ago i found out about the death of a very similar person - i was his first girlfriend when we were 14. he was physically beautiful, athletic, smart, funny - every reason in the world to be stuck up beyond belief. but he was so kind, so sweet, so humble....he was doing research on pediatric heart problems when he died in his mid-40's.

still a part of me is in shock that this can happen. the pain does become shorter over time. but you never forget.

thank you for sharing this with us - i'm keeping you in my heart. steph

Marta said...

your post is both touching and honest! i am so sorry to hear about your loss! my sincere sympathies!

Jeanelle said...

Your feelings could not have been conveyed in a more genuine and beautiful way. My heart goes out to you and everyone effected by this loss. Keep shining during this difficult time.


the Citizen Rosebud said...

I appreciate each and every one of your thoughtful comments. I know it can't be "fun" to read sad posts like this and for those who stuck around, read and shared: thank YOU.

JTWisdom said...

Sorry for your loss,deepest sympathies to you.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this post, my Bella...
Though not familiar with the works he gifted the world with, I still feel the grief as I read Curiosity and had to copy it into my notebook for future reference. It's funny that grief, laughter, sorrow are all universal emotions we can all share. Love to you today

UN-stitched said...

I'm new to your blog, but happy to have found it. It's very brave of you to post and speak about your grief. He seemed a beautiful person, a beautiful soul.
-christine from

Veshoevius said...

So sorry to hear of your and your friends loss. This is a very moving memorial to your friend.

Fashion Limbo said...

very powerful text, beautiful to read. Very sorry for your loss. You have written a wonderful tribute.

kristy said...

dearest bella, i am so sorry to hear about your loss. but i could not imagine a more beautiful, heart-wrenching and eloquent expression of your emotions and feelings during a time like this. i can't believe he was bitten by a brown recluse spider! i love these tiny details you put in, though i never knew Andy, i feel as though you have painted a deserving portrait with your words.

sending so much love out into the universe for you right now. and while life beckons you away, know that we will all be here waiting and thinking of you.

much love, kristy

Raquel said...

I am so sorry for your loss sweet Bella, sending you lots of love!

the Citizen Rosebud said...

Thank you so much, Kristy, Raquel for your kind sympathies. I am incredibly fortunate to have such a strong network of support in my hometown, and in my blogworld, I am so grateful for all your thoughts, and sentiments.