The memorial service proved a study in numbed, dignified restraint.
Reetika Vazirani was so warm and open, so brilliant, so beautiful, a procession of mourners said, taking the lectern to share their recollections. Reetika, the gifted, painstaking poet; the encouraging but rigorous teacher; the magnanimous friend. And her son, Jehan, such a captivating 2-year-old. A sprite attending a grown-up friend’s party in a wizard’s cape. A wonder, learning his colors in Spanish — azul, amarillo, verde. In the photos displayed at the entrance to the room — in which he rode a carousel, perched atop a slide, or nestled on Reetika’s lap — he was always beaming.
Before long, the service last July at the National Press Club took on the feeling and cadences of a poetry reading. That was fitting: The room was full of poets, and poetry had given Reetika her place in the world. One friend chose Edna St. Vincent Millay. A colleague from William & Mary offered a few lines of Langston Hughes. A poem by Yusef Komunyakaa, Jehan’s father, began “I am five”; the friend who read it wanted to evoke an age Jehan would never reach.