Matthew Girvin, on the day of his receipt of his Unicef passport –
the global passcard of commitment to humanity

It was today, ten years back, that my father called me to let me know that we’d lost my brother Matthew Girvin. Matt was on a helicopter — during a rescue mission, for Unicef — to the remote Uvs, a nomadically inclined provincial region in the deep winter of Mongolia. The helicopter crashed. The layering of those stories can be found here:

I can recall a kind of breathlessness — listening to my father, and his struggle with trying to tell the story. Listening, you both — teller and listener — get balled up in the grief, that moves over everything like a black tide or gloom blanket. That settled, it’s hard to perceive the light – at first.

Still, there are glimmers that emerge — scintillant bits of that luminous optimism, that nudge the edge of your eye’s periphery. There are spirits there. Listening — and looking — they emerge to the call.

We erected a great standing pole arrangement of bamboo, festooned with dozens of prayer flags from Mongolia, Nepal and Tibet — with the trappings of the Himalayan spirituality — part mystery, part magic, part Buddhism, part sorcery.

Matt and I’d planned on going to Tibet that winter’s clear — I went anyway, in recollection. In a Tibetan monastery, I was bitten by a dog — a grouchy old black thing, slouching there in the temple yard. A young monk said — “that’s a blessing, it’s either an old monk, that’s telling you something in the only way he knows, or it’s your brother, letting you know he’s around.”

That day of memorial — the day of dealing with death, all of us Girvins went to the land we call “the farm” — and called out to Matt. None of us was strong in our calling — faltering voices — trailing in the winds.

We called out — “Matthew, Matthew. Matthew! We wish you well, Matt!”

And a crow, or a quorking raven, called back. I surely knew that was Matt.
For he and I both shared the love of the corvid ones. And if there was a signal, that would be one.

And surely, this day — they still do. One call, another — I listen to, and for, them all.

Love | back | all ways | that is the only lesson.

Tim | Decatur Island