Today marks the 5th anniversary of the passing of my dear friend Victoria Moore, who died from cancer on her 44th birthday on May 22nd, 2005.
Victoria had only 7 months after her diagnosis. I feel very honored that I was able to be there for her till the very end.
Victoria was one of the smartest people I ever had the fortune to meet. Not only was she computer smart and book smart and smart in any other kind of way...she had 3 Master's Degrees! In fact in the beginning I could hardly believe someone like her would even talk to me. I often choke in the presence of intelligence, but not with Vic, because her heart and her openness and warmth and genuineness made it easy to just be...yourself. She saw something valuable in you, and held it and cherished it.
We came from different regions of the world, with few things in common (or so we thought), one of which being poetry. We belonged to a group that met for years in each other's living rooms, every other Tuesday. Her command of language was awe inspiring, her criticism of other's works always kind and constructive.
When we got to know each other better, we compared hysterectomy stories and scars, and our overbearing mothers. Once she invited me to an award ceremony at RPI, where she eventually received her third MA. When we got there, I realized that SHE was getting a writer's award, and it was a really big deal! Yet she never wanted to make anything of it.
Victoria had moved around a bit in her life, but was always interested in the history of a place. She would find out everything there was to know about the region where she lived, and she would pass that knowledge along in a way where you also wanted to know everything about your surroundings. She grounded herself wherever she was, found new roots in a thorough appreciation of people she met and the place around her.
Through her strong compassion and her most graceful passing she taught me to hold still and listen, and not always just ask questions. I am extremely grateful that she was my friend.
Here's the poem I read at her memorial service. It is to this day one of my most favorite poems, by any author:
Report my Passing (Krakatoa, 1883)
by Victoria Moore
From the porch of her house on South Sumatra
watching ships sailing through the Sunda Strait
past Lang, Venlaten, and Krakatoa,
Mrs Beyering learned semaphore.
Orange and yellow stripes: I am carrying mail,
Flags Z+D+2: report my passing.
Dr Beyering watched his instruments;
she scratched in her diary.
First, there was the plate, smashed
on the marble floor of the dining room.
As for the water barrels she kept in the bathroom,
their surfaces rippled with every detonation.
She didn't feel the vibrations through her feet;
they were coming through the very atmosphere itself.
The compass began to spin round and round.
Blue checks: I am in distress.
The windows and doors rattled and banged.
The whitened sea seemed to freeze,
became uncannily smooth, then shivered again.
The lighthouse shifted on its foundation
and the iron-rich ash made a magentic blizzard.
Dr. Beyering was moved to send a telegram.
The diary stayed dry when the tsunami took the house,
swam with Mrs. Beyering through thick mud and leeches,
reached the top of the highest hill,
and reported to London, Amsterdam, and Paris
that the plate, part of Mrs. Beyering's dowry,
had a gold rim and a pink rose in the center.