Mortal

A few Fridays ago, I was sat in the coffee bar at Stafford railway station waiting for a train to London. A rarity these days as I am mostly working in Swansea and normally work from home on Fridays. My work phone rang but I failed to retrieve it from the depths of the correct pocket in time. A short while later I got the voice mail beep and was able to listen to a message from a friend telling me to call him back urgently. Worrying. I only spoke to my friend every few months or so and we tried to get together at least once a year.

The message said he had sent me an email, so I checked my personal email and Facebook on my iPhone whilst calling him back on my work phone. Looked like he had sent email to work which I could not get at from the station.  My friend, P, told me that another friend, R, had been found dead in his hotel room in Edinburgh. Whilst I was talking with P, I received a message on Facebook from R’s daughter. She said “brace yourself i’ve got bad news. R is dead. … i’m sorry for your loss.” His daughter was saying “Sorry for your loss” to me.

P, R and I had been a near inseparable group for a key part of all of our lives in the eighties.R was the same age as me and similar in many ways. He was also away from home staying in hotels for work a lot. For years my wife has worried about getting a similar call.

Neither P or I had had significant contact with R for years. I had only recently managed to get back into some limited contact with R a few months before through Facebook and it looked like we might have got together in the summer. I was hopeful that I might finally be able to gain some understanding of why he had suddenly, nearly 10 years before, left his wife and pre-teen daughter and “reinvented” himself. He had cut his whole family and all his old friends off with one exception, his daughter and even that connection had many ups and downs. Whilst she was a bridesmaid at his 2nd marriage, they have not seen each other in the last five years.

P, R’s daughter and myself as well as R’s two brothers (who had similarly been cut-off) attended R’s funeral in Durham. It was strange seeing recent pictured of him and hearing of things about his life in recent years. It was even stranger meeting people from his new life. One of his step- daughters (an adult) asked if I was one of his brothers! His daughter was very brave to attend the funeral. I can hardly imagine the conflicting emotions that raged in her.

It seems that I am not alone in being somewhat angry with R that I will never get an explanation from him of what happened to him and why he cut everyone off the way he did.

I have seen a lot of death over the years, especially when I was a young adult and in places no sane person should be. Why though had this death of someone who had cut me off have hit me so hard? Another friend covered this well in a message to me on Facebook: “Quite a shock to hear the news. These things, which used to be confined to older relatives etc. as you grow older when they happen to friends and people your own age tend to remind you of your own mortality.”

5 thoughts on “Mortal

  1. I was very moved by the poem that was read out at the end of the service witht the following introduction:

    “I close with a peom by David Harkin as I think R would have approved of its message.

    You can shed a tear that he is gone
    or you can smile because he has lived

    You can close your eyes and pray he'll come back
    or you can open your eyes and see all he's left.

    Your heart can be empty because you can't see him
    or you can be full of the love you shared

    You can turn your back on tomorrow and live for yesterday
    or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

    You can remember and only that he's gone
    or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.

    You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
    or you can do what he'd want: smile, open your eyes love and go on.”

    His widow added these words:
    “And so in love remember R's life, the qualities you loved and
    admired, your memories of him. They are a reality that can never die.”

    I found a copy of the main text on http://www.blakehartley.com/PoemsPage.htm
    but a search for David Harkin gives a slightly different version called Remember me, http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/remember-me/

  2. I was very moved by the poem that was read out at the end of the service with the following introduction:

    “I close with a poem by David Harkin as I think R would have approved of its message.

    You can shed a tear that he is gone
    or you can smile because he has lived

    You can close your eyes and pray he’ll come back
    or you can open your eyes and see all he’s left.

    Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
    or you can be full of the love you shared

    You can turn your back on tomorrow and live for yesterday
    or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

    You can remember and only that he’s gone
    or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.

    You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
    or you can do what he’d want: smile, open your eyes love and go on.”

    His widow added these words:
    “And so in love remember R’s life, the qualities you loved and
    admired, your memories of him. They are a reality that can never die.”

    I found a copy of the main text on http://www.blakehartley.com/PoemsPage.htm
    but a search for David Harkin gives a slightly different version called Remember me, http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/remember-me/

  3. I was very moved by the poem that was read out at the end of the service with the following introduction:

    “I close with a poem by David Harkin as I think R would have approved of its message.

    You can shed a tear that he is gone
    or you can smile because he has lived

    You can close your eyes and pray he’ll come back
    or you can open your eyes and see all he’s left.

    Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
    or you can be full of the love you shared

    You can turn your back on tomorrow and live for yesterday
    or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

    You can remember and only that he’s gone
    or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.

    You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
    or you can do what he’d want: smile, open your eyes love and go on.”

    His widow added these words:
    “And so in love remember R’s life, the qualities you loved and
    admired, your memories of him. They are a reality that can never die.”

    I found a copy of the main text on http://www.blakehartley.com/PoemsPage.htm
    but a search for David Harkin gives a slightly different version called Remember me, http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/remember-me/

  4. Thanks Julian. Appreciate the thoughts. I would not want you to worry that I am especially depressed or morbid regarding this passing though.

  5. Relationships and families can get complicated in the best of circumstances. When someone, for whatever reason, makes such sudden changes to their life (and of those around them) the repercussions can last for some time. It appears that Richard must have been wrestling with many personal demons to act the way he did. The funeral must have brought home to many people some of these demons.

    Over time, it may be that more answers start to appear to match with the many questions that family and friends have. Hopefully these answers may provide a better understanding of the motivation for these changes.

    My mother in law was adopted by relatives at the age of 3 (she is now nearly 80). Recent research into the family tree raised a whole load of questions about her other, and unkown, family on her mother's side. This reopened a number of deeply hidden memories and raised a whole load of new questions which now can never be answered. This caused her quite a bit of anxiety.

    As mentioned before, I hope that over time, some answers start to emerge.

    Thanks for requoting my previous message. As I stated before, we are all on a journey through life and need to remember that at some point that journey will come to an end. As we go through this journey, perspectives and awareness will change and we start to become more aware of our mortality. This awareness should not be a source of gloom, but should act as a reminder that we only pass this way once and should try and get the most out of all we do and help others to get the most out of their journey.

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