Three weeks ago today, the world lost a truly wonderful human being. Witty, charming, intelligent, self effacing and always willing to help. His death is proof that the world isn’t fair, as if any of us needed it. I found out by chance, glancing down at my phone as I sat on the futon reading, I saw I had a message waiting, and read with increasing horror and disbelief of the death of a friend I had known for four years.
Suffice it to say that the rest of the day was spent in a blur of emails and Facebook posts as the community came together in order to share its’ collective grief and attempt to process the news. When one learns of news like this, there is a need to congregate, share stories and attempt to make sense of events in a group setting, and this was achieved through an ad hoc gathering at a tribemates’ home . Normally, such meetings are joyous affairs, with much joking and ribbing, but this was different. The room held an air of stunned incomprehension as we all tried to make sense of the days’ news, swapped stories of the last time we’d seen our friend and attempted to numb the pain with alcohol.
Five days later, we gathered at a local church for a memorial service. I and four others who had been in the same close learning circle as our friend acted as ushers, handing out programs, directing attendees and trying ( although not succeeding) in maintaining an air of calm. Around 250 people attended, with another 55 watching proceedings online, and it was heartening to see the extent to which our friend had affected the lives of others, as well as the respect, appreciation and love the community had for him. I doubt if anyone remained dry eyed through the memorial, and I will admit to losing it, especially during the singing of “All Through The Night” which ended the event.
But life goes on, we all have to continue with our regular activities, not as an insult to those who have passed on, but as proof that we remember them, honour their lives and keep the memory of them alive with us. After a formal reception, many of us adjourned to a tribemates’ house for a second gathering, which I know our friend would have enjoyed. Drinks flowed, plates were filled and emptied, stories were repeated and jokes told, so that the pain of the day was softened by the presence of so many people whom we had not seen for many months. It was hard on all of us, no one could truly comprehend that someone as vital, loving and caring as our friend was no longer with us. I’m not going to descend into platitudes, but it was clear during the weekend that the whole community developed a sense of how fragile life is, that no opportunity to meet with friends should ever be passed up, that we need to stay close to those whom we had previously regarded as peripheral. This is not to say that we don’t grieve for our friend, or have concern for the welfare of his wife and children, but there is now an awareness that even the bitterest of events can bring forth an understanding of how much love one person can create, and a sweetness in shared memories and experiences.