Enduring Benediction

^ That’s him on the left.

It was the day of the memorial service for my former professor Kenny Hall. About halfway through the afternoon I stated getting nervous: I’d been asked to speak as one of three student/alumni speakers invited to share remembrances and it was a daunting task trying to figure out what to say. I’d written something the night before, but had dissolved into tears every time I tried to read it in order to time out how long it would be. A little part of me wasn’t satisfied with it. A bigger part of me worried that I’d even be able to get through it. The more I thought about it the more I thought it would be a good idea to have a backup plan: maybe some notes that would be a bit more modular in case I had to skip to the end.

Once I’d sketched out a second plan I felt better: I had options. I was glad too- it only took a minute of actually sitting in the memorial for the tears to start: each speaker was followed by an interlude of a video clip of Kenny himself talking about some point that was meaningful to him. To see him there in high definition on a twenty foot screen seemed appropriate for the larger-than-life image that has been taking shape in my mind’s eye. For a few minutes at a time it was as if he was there in the room with us.

Graciously, the school provided packets of tissues.

When it came to be my turn to speak I was glad that I’d written out my thoughts- not that I could read much. For the sake of posterity, and for those who weren’t able to be there, here’s an approximation of what I said (Tears and sniffles redacted):

Hi, my name is Gwydhar. I was Kenny’s student assistant for the past three semesters for 508*. As anybody who had ever tried to make a 508 film knows, it’s impossible to fit everything that you want to say in five minutes, so imagine trying to say everything you want to say about Kenny Hall in two minutes and you’ll have some sense of what I’m going through.

It’s appropriate, I think, that this memorial is taking place on November first, which is All Hallows: a time when the spirits of the dead can be near us. I certainly think Kenny is near us tonight.

Kenny wasn’t *just* a sound teacher, he was an inspiration. Everybody knew him and everybody liked him. He was cheerful and kind. Everybody was “his”: “his Gwydhar”, “his Buddy”, his special friend. He joked about it but He meant it too.

I went looking for photos of him to contribute to the slide show and discovered that I didn’t have any. The only picture that I had was a drawing that I’d done of him in class where I was sitting beside him and he was facing away. I think it is appropriate, though, that my memory of him is being side by side.

The last time we spoke was at graduation. When I heard he was in descent, I tried to think if there was anything unsaid between is that needed to be said. I decided that there wasn’t: I was just sorry we hadn’t had more time.

It was Kenny who always did the talking- I was the “motivational listener”.

We grieve for ourselves- for or lives that feel darker knowing that a light had gone away. In my mind, I expect to see him on campus. I imagine him just around the corner in the hallways of post production, same as he ever was. In my mind, I see him now as I saw him then: alive and smiling. Poking at his phone. talking with his hands. Singing tunelessly: da0dah-dee-dah-dum to express a musical thought. Getting on the elevator and saying “Seven please!” when the elevator only goes to four.

How lucky are we to be here? I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but really- how lucky are we to have known him and to have these memories to share. How strange it is for someone to exist and not to exist at the same time. Who is this person, now gone, who speaks to me from my memories? And for thos of us who carry these memories, is he really gone at all? I like to think he’s somewhere just over my shoulder- just out of the corner of my eye. And if I don’t turn my head too quickly, he will be there forever.

* An intermediate production class in which students produce five minute films

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on November 2, 2016.

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