Tagged: Eulogy

Shit You Just Made Up


My mother passed away on the 2nd May 2021. She had been ill for a long time. Her diabetes and failing organs was taking its toll on her, but the loss of our sister, her eldest daughter, so suddenly seemed to be the final blow to her strength and resistance. What follows below is the Eulogy I wrote for her and delivered at her funeral on the 19th May 2021.

I should start by saying that this Eulogy should have an age rating, PG 13 may contain violence or bad language with scenes upsetting to younger viewers. And we are going to have to stop meeting here like this, there’s no bar.

So, mum would be annoyed right now, because she didn’t have the option to die first, or get to choose who went before her. Because she would be staring at me and saying, your last eulogy was beautiful, but you used up all the best words. This one is going to sound like a sequel, and they’re normally bloody awful.

I once spoke to my mother about her funeral. It was after the death of her friend, Mary. Her comment, I hate funerals everyone is always so bloody miserable. There’s so much sadness I don’t want to go like that. We joked about it, we finally decided that what we would do was leave her body randomly in a skip with two fingers raised up to the world. But clearly that’s illegal, I checked, you can’t dump a corpse in a skip and you cannot mail it to a political party.

The other thing she wanted aside from less sadness, was the poem by W. H. Auden from Four Weddings and a Funeral, Stop the Clocks. She loved a good tearjerker moment. Yes, she was a contradictory old bird, she wanted us to be happy but listen to this sad poem.

My Mum liked a laugh. In fact she was happiest when you’d make her laugh so much she could wee herself a little. She was less happy as she got older and more ill but there was still a twinkle in her eye.

I remember how she would play jokes, tricks and even exaggerate stories to amuse us. She sang to us at bedtime, often really badly, just to emotionally scar us. In truth, she gave everything for her family

A few weeks ago I had to write a Eulogy for my sister that was based around love. Because love and the balance of it defined her. But this one is more about the attitude. I hope I can remind you of my mother, of her beauty. And if not, this is going to screw you up. Because, like my mother’s jokes, and occasional choice words, her fondness for an insult and profanity, this has bad taste for a memorial address.

Let me tell you of a few of her exploits, those that won’t lead to legal cases. To raise a smile, in spite of the fact that she is dead. Because she’d want me to remind you of the fact that she is dead. Very dead. But happy to haunt you. She’d enjoy the look on your face if that happened. She’d laugh and say I told you I was ill. She’s swear for good measure and take a verbal swipe at someone. Somewhere she is prodding me and saying slip in a good line to shock them all. You know, they are not really going to expect you to say bollocks.
Some of this is as mum would have said it, is shit you just made up.

  • She had nicknames when she was a kid, they were Sheila the Peeler, Spud Bate, and the Happy Slapper
  • She once held down a boy, knelt on him, and carved her initials into his stomach with a switchblade.
  • She was the leader of a local street gang, like the Bash Street Kids but far more deformed.
  • Speaking of the bash Street Kids she once told me that when Simon was born he looked like Pug. She stapled his ears to his head until he was five.
  • She told me I looked like Brad Pitt, I’m lying she said I looked like Ru Paul’s ball sack.
  • Her youngest sister (Edie) was sent out each night to tell her to come inside and stop sucking on the boys heads, mum’s mouth was big enough to put the whole face of a boy inside it. The girls would draw straws to see who had to tell her, but they made sure Edie always lost.
  • She murdered one of my childhood friends in a ritualistic burning incident. My whole family gathered round to watch. I was distraught, crying my eyes out at the kitchen window as they exploded in the back yard.
  • In order to make her beehive hair stand up she would mix sugar and water and then apply a ton of sweet smelling hairspray. Curiously, it attracted bees. They would follow her around thinking that their queen had lost her wings and grown stilettos. She used to make honey from her head and often fermented mead from her right ear.
  • She was asymptomatic with most childhood illnesses, but she did enjoy passing infections on to everyone else while not getting sick herself. In fact she never told people that she gave them licky end, even though you only get it if you’re a sheep.
  • She stole my Auntie Dot’s best dress so she could impress her first husband’s parents. She brazenly didn’t care that she had done it as it was a good reason. She thought he was loaded.
  • She loved Elvis so much she cried for days when he died. She pretty much ignored one of her own children’s birthdays. Mine, he died on the 16th August 1977, 2 days before my 9th birthday. Obviously I am not bitter, I remember it with joy, real, real, joy.
  • She told me to never leave Liam alone with fruit, he has a dangerous look when he sees an orange, licks his lips in a weird way, and never let him stroke a banana.
  • Once she was pranked by a family member calling at midnight, they quickly ordered a pizza for delivery and hung up. She returned the favour by calling back at four in the morning to say it was ready for collection.
  • She threw a slipper at Grandpa Bill when he was shouting at her, she always regretted throwing it, but she was happy she didn’t miss. She once told me that the real problem was that she hadn’t used steel toe cap boots as then he would have taken her a lot more seriously.
  • She once painted the house purple, she didn’t just paint the walls, but the hinges on the doors – she liked painting hinges, in fact hinges, light switches, crockery, furniture, nothing escaped the brush. If it didn’t move it was fair game to be painted, it’s why we were never still as kids.
  • She invented the knee. Before she was born people had incredible trouble lifting heavy weights. Back injuries were rife. And running was impossible without spring boots.
  • She told me that we shouldn’t let Lesley drink Stella in Southport again, we can’t afford to be banned in another seaside town as a family especially not since her Budweiser binge in Newport, they still haven’t found all those steel workers, or the marrow
  • Mum, and her sisters, had a laugh when they went to view my Nan in an open casket because of the make-up the funeral parlour used. Nan’s daughters were wetting themselves at how she looked.
  • While on a family holiday in Scotland mum decided to rudely moon a family member through a window after an argument. We had arrived late the day before. Everyone was stressed. The next morning she was still annoyed about it. She thought they were alone in the garden, Also, she thought the high wall was at the edge of the garden, only glimpsed in the late evening the night before when we arrived. It was actually on the other side of the road. So she opened the curtains, bent over with a laugh, and a very naughty word. She flashed several cars and a tour bus along with most of the family.
  • A neighbour once refused to give her a ball back, she asked politely but they said it was theirs as it was on their property. So mum took, what can only be thought of as a mighty steamer onto a paper and mailed her own faeces through the letterbox and said they could bloody well keep that as well.
  • When one of her children was banned from a certain supermarket in the whole of the country her only words to the police were, ‘can I belt them stupid here or do I have to wait until I drag them home so you don’t see me’.
  • In her later years she kept a scorecard of people she outlived. Every time I saw her she would remind me of another one that had died. Sometimes with a look in her eye that suggested she had made sure of it. Her favourite phrase was always, you’ll never guess who’s dead.

That was my mother. It was never straight or ordinary, she was colourful and loved life and people. She married twice. She was a Bate, a Keating and a Schofield. In her heart she was always a Bate. She honestly shared so much with my nan, but she never stopped being Bill’s oldest daughter.

She married very badly. The first one had to have been good at kissing, she sucked his face enough. I truly think she married him just to annoy her parents. She was a rebel without a clue. The second one was the worst rebound decision ever. She had a good choice in words, and a terrible choice in husbands.

My mum was our cheerleader. Our audience. Our friend. Our support. We could do no wrong.

She was not a perfect person. She could be a shouty bugger. She had four children who were, for the most part, boisterous and often complete sods as we ran riot occasionally. At times in her life she raised four children on her own, those times felt like the majority.

My mother loved all her family, and her children. She loved all her grandchildren and had such a special place in her heart for her great grandchildren. They were her life. Her joy. For her, we were the best thing she did.
My last words were to her, when I saw her in the hospital was to tell her I love you, she said she ‘I love you’ and, ‘look after yourself cocker’.

And she wanted me to tell you one thing, “Life’s not so serious, fucking arses to it, remember to smile.”


When Writing a Eulogy, as with writing anything, there are lines that you write and then take out. Some of this is because they just don’t fit; it might be that the text is too long; they may not match the tone of the eulogy; or you just took a story too far, were too revealing or crude. I have included them here as I think they serve as further illustration, they are out of context to where they appeared in the original but you should get a sense of where they may have been.

  • She was known for calling people inappropriate names. If she was annoyed you’d be lucky if you were just called shitbag, or dickhead, if she was really roused she would descend to what she called a ‘fucking few choice words’.
  • When she worked at Barr Bottle factory she re-invigorated the entire industry by suggesting a deposit on bottles. She was never credited but her line manager received shares.
  • She used to say ‘but that Kathy’, she knew we’d be confused as she had three daughters called Kathy and each one she loved enough to make you wonder which one she was talking about.
  • In later years she never drank that much. But I recall as a child she would have a glass of what she called Brandycham – it was Brandy and Babycham. A lethal combination. Her saying was. One would make you want to kiss someone, two would make you kiss anyone, but if you had three then you’d end up kissing everyone.

In fact when he was a child there was an incident with a fruit bowl, I don’t actually know what occurred but the FBI were involved and they don’t have jurisdiction in the UK.

They all laughed about how she was displayed, as they put it, ‘as a whore’.

Often she’d say, remember Jackie who used to live down near the school, she’s dead now. With a look that told you why she thought that Jackie had to be dead.

Okay we shouldn’t go there as it is the past, but we have to as it is her life. She really married arseholes. I mean absolute pieces of shit. It took some beating to match that bastard my father was, but my stepfather really rose to the challenge and was a total shite. But I am just quoting mum here. She called him fang, I called him wanker.

She’d want you all to know she knew that. She’d want you to remember. What she’d want you to remember the most is that she finally managed to divorce them. She never stopped regretting. She never felt she had paid enough for their failure.

Honestly though, I like to think it was a subtle plan for her male progeny, don’t be as much of a piece of shit as these two I married. It was a clever lesson. I hope as her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren we can learn itIf you have to marry badle, marry arseholes so that your kids eventually learn not to be like them. It’s not the best plan, but it is at least a plan.

Because, you know, they have a mother who would sacrifice everything for them. Which is what she did.
I think it was clever, my mum was often subtly clever. I am thinking of an example of this. The Name of the Rose. The first time I saw this movie I saw it with my mum. About halfway, maybe two thirds through, my mum said, I know how they are being killed. I said I know why and who (those two are pretty much intrinsically linked, once you know one you know the other). So we told each other our deductions. And I won’t spoil it, but we were both right. My mum saw the steps leading to a decision even if she didn’t change the outcome knowing it.
Sometimes my mother worked things out, she might not have the whole picture, she had the whole of a corner and it made her dig. I know I share that, I know my brother and sister do. It is why we are also bloody annoying. We keep digging to see what else is down there. But it is not the best gift she gave us.

She held grudges, I think it is a trait from her side of the family and not one I am that upset about. But her disagreements were not from spite but because of how much they hurt, how far could people fall. She rarely gave up on people, no matter the cost. She was always there. She was always on your side, even if she occasionally murdered your childhood friends.

My Mother was ill for a very long time. If the truth is told we started to lose her some time ago. She was a shadow of her former self in the final days of her life, but one thing held true. She cared about you. She cared what you did. What you felt. What you knew. She was always your cheerleader, you were always her champion. Her love was blind, because it was unconditional.

Her later years she became less like my mother, our sister, aunt, grandmother, great grandmother. Age and ill health overtook her and stole some of her mirth.

Her failing in partners was a failure of all blind belief. She believed in people. She believed them even if she could see the lies. She believed they wanted to be better. She believed they could be more. She had faith in people.

She would have said ‘our Mark is just itching for me to die so he can get away with saying “cunt” at a funeral’

The Balance of Love


My sister died just before April 2021, it was sudden, it was heartbreaking. Due to the unknown cause of death there was an autopsy and a coroner’s report (without inquest). Today, April 28th, we had her interred at the crematorium in St Helens near to where she lived.

Below is the Eulogy I wrote and read for her and the poem I wrote that was read at the ceremony.

Kathryn at a Walking Day in the 1960s

Kathryn Keating: A Eulogy: The Balance of Love

I have to say before I start. When I wrote this, I wondered for a moment what Kathryn would want to say. She’d probably say: don’t make a fuss, don’t cry too much, or remember the happy times. No bad jokes or swearing. You know, don’t cock up the eulogy. 

When I think of my sister, I think of the fact that she spent most of her life living in, or near to, Warrington. She had holidays with family. She went abroad to France and Italy. She loved books. She loved science fiction. She loved fantasy and superheroes. She loved Doctor Who, but that’s because she was sensible. 

She loved music, seemingly when it contained androgenous boys, she was a huge fan of Adam and the Ants and A-ha along with Simon leBon from Duran Duran in the 80s and later IL Divo, I have a small story about that in a minute. She introduced me to New Wave and New Romance, but I don’t feel she approved of my choices when I introduced her to Punk, Goth, Metal and Thrash. 

She was too young to die. But, sometimes the brightest lights burn out suddenly. 

My sister was always happy for others, she had great joy for what the people around her did, or were doing. However, for all of my life that I can remember she carried a great personal sadness. A shame, a sorrow, a loss. A thing that she could not escape. Some people take the pain that is done to them and give it to others. My sister turned it to love. She would not give her sorrow, her anger at what happened, to others. She would always try to shoulder their sorrow instead, feel their pain, take their loss. She knew what it was like to feel the most dreadful anguish and could not bear to have others feel the same.

It defined her in many ways. 

My sister rarely got angry when I was younger. Oh she could be picky, ratty, or niggly about silly things. She could get frustrated. But not really angry. Not tear down the walls and howl at the moon angry. Which is rare for a Keating, apparently. It pissed me off because we are an egregious bunch. The only time I was ever able to get her really angry was over the lead singer of A-Ha. She had a major crush on him. When I read that he was engaged to a girl called Rose and there was a picture in the paper of him with a tattoo of a rose. I used that as a way of winding my sister up. I went to town. For no good reason other than I am an ass hat. She tried not to rise to the bait. But I was pretty persistent. I don’t know where I get that stubbornness from as I think of a family of Bates nearby. That was the day I ran out of a room and she threw a table at me. I got away but we had a broken door and a damaged table.

It was the only time I can recall her being genuinely mad, screaming at me level of madness. Because she was kind. It took a sweet natured soul like me to make her really mad.

How do we judge a life? How do we discuss how it was filled? How was it worth living? I was thinking about this because Prince Philip passed away recently and so there has been so much media attention, so much public outpourings, discourse and even some anger. So it made me think of how we often judge a person based on their achievements. Sometimes we might mention the love, or joy they brought to others, but mostly we judge people on what they did, not just who they were. So I thought of my sister.

Kathryn was the eldest child of Sheila. Blessed with a mother’s love, she also took on that role, to give love to others. When I was a young child she seemed as old to me as any adult. I was still three when she became ten. She would take me to the park, she would read to me, teach me numbers and tell me what the world meant. 

My earliest memories are of standing on the back rail of her tricycle as she raced through the streets, me holding on for dear life and screaming with pleasure. She filled my world, I can remember the feeling of her hair brushing my face as we raced along the pavement or when I was pushed on a swing on the park which we called the Cowfield.

She was that for all of us. She did not have children of her own, but she was like a mother, or more a grandmother, probably the best ever auntie to all of us. To my brother, Simon and his wife Cathey she helped raise Steven, Jenny and Liam. Then she helped, as much as she could, to raise Jenny’s children Joshua and Caitlin. She was there for me and Leigh for all of our children, Benjamin, Elliott, Asher. And to Steven and Sam’s son, Lewis who was a light in her world, he was her little man, they all were. Finally she adored our littlest Keating, Mila, daughter to Liam and Alex. She felt rewarded that finally she had another niece along with Kaitlyn. Another little girl in the family. She wanted to mother us all. To hold us, protect us, smother us with love and gifts, her every thought was for others.

We can judge a life on the balance of love. How much they gave versus how much they received. In that my sister’s life was flowing. It filled everyone around her. She loved us all deeply. More than some of us deserved. So much that we can only hold our breaths and miss it. She filled her life with her family. With her devotion to us. To our mother and to our sister. 

I think that might be the better value of a life. How much you give versus how much you receive. We can all do better, but the best you can hope for is a balance of the same in and out. Statistically it is impossible for everyone to give more than they receive, the average will shift. Some have to be worse, some have to be better or everyone has to be average. I know I did maths in a eulogy, and Kathryn right now would be raising her eyebrows, rolling her eyes, and declaring me to be a nerd. 

My sister gave much more love into the world than I think it could afford to balance. 

For my sister, Lesley, my heart aches. She and Kathryn seemed fixed together. Bonded as sisters with a deeper shared understanding, theirs was a friendship few will ever know. They should have been old ladies together, grey haired and wobbly, with a deep smell of Vicks vapour rub, tutting at fashion and laughing at the haircuts of the young, yelling at people to pull their pants up or try wearing a skirt and not a belt. 

We have been robbed of that double act, so we are all going to have to expect Lesley to play both parts and tell us what Kathryn would have said. I asked Lesley if there was something she wanted to say. Her answer: 

“Tell them the old git shouldn’t have left me alone without her, it’s not fair.”

So we say goodbye to Kathryn, my sister. But I think I have lost someone who was also like a mother, or a grandmother, a lover of people, a lover of family,  a confidant, a fellow geek. I lost not just a sister, I lost a part of myself, I lost a friend.

I feel I carry some inescapable sadness, losing so much love from her. I guess that’s a cost in the balance of love.

I call for you

I called for you,
You were not there.

I looked for you,
But there wasn’t even your shadow.

I listened for your voice,
But I could not hear it.

I waited for your touch,
And felt nothing.

No matter where I looked, I could not find you.
Not in any photographs,
Not in the many stories,
Not in words, not in letters,
Not in songs or any film we shared,
You were gone.

In the darkness, I thought I saw you,
At night,
When you’d just left.
But, it was just an echo,
Thoughts grasping desperately
Sorrow crafting phantoms.

A Hope,
Now Forlorn.

I needed you,
To be here.
I wanted you,
To hold me close.
Reminding me,
That it’s okay,
That it is all right,
That we’ll survive,
That you’ll be there


You’re not here.

And then I remembered,
A thing you said,
That was so long ago,
I barely remembered.

It brought back,
The laugh we shared,
That trip we took,
The song we heard,
The words we said,
The films we saw,
The books we read,
Those games we played,
Those things we shared,
The way you looked,
The way you cared.

And you were there.

(Mark Keating, April 2021)


Grief is an odd thing. (Honestly I would laugh at such a trite opening sentence but I wrote it.)

I mean it is horrid, and it is cruel, and it is frustrating, heartbreaking, really just add whatever words that feel like you want to tear your own heart out here, as that’s what it can feel like, it’s basically a bag of shit…

I am in my fifties, clearly this is not the first time I have felt grief. I am still grieving over the loss of a good friend from 4 years past. And in some deeply sarcastic coinciclasm that was also in fucking April. I am not over it and I will have to pass that anniversary while grieving for my sister, in fact before my sister’s funeral I have an anniversary of a time I still cannot get over, so many regrets and so much loss. 

So, I have compounded my grief. And now I have mentioned it I honestly don’t know which grief is truly which. I don’t know if I am feeling different things because  of this. I don’t know because I can’t separate similar emotions, and I don’t know if the more recent emotions bring fresh the past.

The recent grief or the memory of grief. And whether I should even realise that I am comparing how different they are, like it matters what the level is, is this in some kind of grading… more on that later…

But this grief is different. But all grief is different. This is the first member of my close family I have lost. Someone who has been there every moment of my life and isn’t any more.

Thankfully I have had the option of hiding away for some of the week to process my thoughts and feelings (I have to say ‘Thankfully’, because I am thankful for this. But I also think I am being stupidly selfish and almost vindictive, hiding away to shield myself from others.). 

I have also had to deal with funeral directors and the coroner’s office, my sister had to have an autopsy to determine the cause of her death. This just extends the process. It is as if we can’t let her go as there is no understanding as to why she died. The physical cause, I should not have to say. So dealing with the practical aspects is a blessing in that I can focus my feelings. It is a curse as I have to deal with it and then be the emotional gatekeeper of each new piece of information.

Does this affect the grief? A little but maybe not that much. Or maybe to a great degree. I don’t have the introspection to know differently. I think it is just a factor in the process but it isn’t a motivator for much. Some confused feelings, some anger at having to wait, to have no explanation, to have nothing to blame. Then when we know, anger, relief and sadness as if it was just a death. there is no easy anger. There is no fault that was obvious. There was just a long series of compounding factors. No easy route to blame. So it just makes it more conflicted, more unresolved feelings.

But the grief would have all of those even if the situation was clearer.

There is this thing where if you are sad, if you are grieving, it is like you shouldn’t be laughing, or enjoying something. that you shouldn’t eat, or drink, just mourn in quiet loneliness or beat your chest in an agony of despair, or something (please fill in a standard socially acceptable response at this junction). It can be a bit of a grief ritual, it can be a bit grief shaming, it can be a bit grief competition.

When public figures die we often see people giving extended diatribes on how the grief has affected them. The media and focus of others doesn’t help in this. But it feels as if we end up wallowing in loss that has nothing to do with what we lost. We also try to justify, qualify, or worse compete to show our grief.

I want to say it is sickening, and in some ways it can become that way, but it isn’t. It is just processing errors. the inability to be able to functionally interpret how to respond in each given social situation based on how others are responding. In other words, people make people worse when we grieve. We all grieve in similar patterns, but our grief is our own and we deal with it in our own way.

So grief has you laughing at stupid things that are not that funny as a release from the crying at the things that you just can’t fucking change at all.

* A brief interlude while I go away to be sad, like you’d notice since you get this all in one flow *

So there are seven stages of grief, you can go and look them up I am not going to Google it for you. I broadly see how they categorise them, and right now you should have guessed by this sentence that I don’t think that does anything other than help us rationalise this.

As if you can rationalise looking at a minecraft t-shirt and feeling deeply sad that it means something that would have lifted someone momentarily. A smile in a world that can sometimes be hard. That would make someone feel good about something they did. But that moment is now forever gone and the joy it would have brought is a moment of loss that it never happened. That’s grief. 

Reconcile it. 

I am not saying we can’t rationalise, I am not saying we can’t even gain comfort of closure from understanding how it is actually a beneficial memory (run it all to its course and it actually is) but it can’t be reconciled. It could only have been reconciled if the event had happened. It can’t ever happen. It just gets pulled into your moments of grief that you can categorise into seven distinct phases.

Like how I can’t separate my feelings between my grief at the loss of a friend who died 4 years ago (a few days from now) and the death of my sister who died two weeks ago. I can’t separate the feelings and so now I worry that I am doing some injustice to one of them.

I only know that they both meant a great deal to me.

They were both quite exceptional people.

I am begining to really fucking hate April.


Where am I right now?
I’m thinking, or is that drinking?
Oh I am absolutely drinking (I would say deinitely but I forgot how to pronounce it).
my sister was kind.
But where am I?
Somewhere in the land of the lost. Slightly dramatic. But that is where I am. Having to deal. Things are real. My sister died.
People die.
They do. There is no escaping it. Though saying it that way is like saying ‘all lives matter’, as in context M’FO.
Why am I writing this?
She died suddenly. Quickly. Heart-wrenchingly…
There has to be a coroner’s thing…
We can’t even register her dead and do the paperwork fully thing…
We can do some of that thing…
I am also the one doing that thing. I am not alone, I am just… taking the stance that my family are too heartbroken to take…
She was the oldest of my mother’s children. I am the youngest. I am also the one who does this sort of organising paperwork thing. I am the one who thinks in the straight line objective ways. I am critical. I am objective. Basically I can be a logical/rational/unemotional cunt (please excuse the gender-specific abuse and fuck the fucking-fuck-fuck out of any wankery about cussing).
I don’t have typical (neuro or social) habits, friends, family, close relations. In fact if you took a survey I wouldn’t hit average for pretty much everyone in my life. Except me, and I am not sure about me. Unless the survey had the question ‘does anyone in your life exhibit x non-typical feature’ as a standard base of inclusion…
I have also seen dead people before. Several. I have dealt in this area. I have a way of martialling what needs to be done. I can COMPARTMENTALISE.
I am also the one who would be angry if I wasn’t the one doing this as it is fucking stupid to make anyone else do it. On that note, my family would do anything they had to, they never made me do this. I pretty much manipulated the circumstances where I am doing this. And thank fuck I did. My heart is breaking at the loss of my sister. I would be fucking manic if that also meant my brother and sister were tortured by doing things that I can do.
I can do this and the act of doing with confidence counts against the pain.
My sister died suddenly, it was medical emergency so it was brutal. It was 4 days ago. And because of bank holidays (I am not judging here, I am not blaming, it is just circumstance), today was the first day I could go and identify her.
My other sister came along. She was initially asked to identify as she was listed as next contact due to living closer. My sister couldn’t do it.
I went alone.
I am glad I did. I am better knowing that my decision to do so was best. I don’t want them to remember her this way.
I knew something of what it was to be.
It wasn’t my first dead person.
But I am still in the land of the lost.
I did that. It was the best choice. There are so many other reasons and understandings I could tell you to explain how and why it is better this way.
I just hate myself for knowing it was the best choice. I hate myself for being so strong in all of this. I hate myself for not having anything more than those as the only reasons I need (I have more but this is about me and not others).
Where is this going?
Oh yes.
My sister died and today I had to identify her body after she had been dead for 3 days (4 calendar days).
Today I started the process of going through all her paperwork and a life that was spent giving love to others (I am not being kind, she was generally a person who gave a lot of love to others as she had experienced a fuck ton of abuse in her own life and turned it to kindness.). Today I started to accept her death and be rational about how we deal with her loss.
Where am I right now?
I am lost. But not really. I have things to do. I have things to arrange. A funeral, financial matters. Family matters.
Not really lost…
Feeling loss.
“Always try, to be nice and never fail to be kind.”

Ere I am J.H.

[Last night, Monday 31st July, we scattered my friends ashes in a small ceremony near Friar’s Crag on Derwent Water in the Lake District. I naturally took the opportunity to write some more about her to share with the people who attended. It is reprinted here for everyone else.]

In Terry Gilliam’s seminal film Brazil we have an underlying narrative about existence, reality and the nature of understanding. How we can construct realities and not see the world around us. How we can live our life in a dream and be perfectly content despite the horrifying monotony of the industrialised world and corporate government bureaucracy that dominates and controls us.

The main protagonist in the film slowly has the perfect construct of his world stripped away. He is our dreamer and we get to watch his dreams, his flights of fantasy where he escapes and becomes a hero, an angel, a saviour.

He is a Walter Mitty who hides his feelings, and nature, and escapes to his fantasy world. As the film progresses, in its real world, our protagonist finds excitement and love before it is all torn from him.

The film ends with an escape from reality into a final dream world where a lost love is regained and happiness is ever after. A contrast between what is nightmare and dream, real and unreal, our dialogue on understanding.

Only we as an audience know that the dark reality continues.

“I thought the world of you
I thought nothing could go wrong
But I was wrong, I was wrong”
(Linger, The Cranberries, Written by Noel Anthony Hogan, Dolores Mary O’riordan • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group)

It is strange that I would discuss that with you as it seems to have no relationship to Jane. I mentioned in my eulogies at the Funeral and Memorial Service that Jane and I had a shared passion in art, in literature, film and theatre. We would often discuss movies not just in how we liked them but looking for their deeper themes and relationships and comparing them to our own existence.

This is generally the manner in which we spoke, this is the discourse we would fall into within minutes of seeing each other. Barely had the pleasantries of trip and life passed before some theme, meme or fancy would fly out and we would tease and discuss it. We did this type of discussion about most things and so I decided to use the same rhetoric with you all today. I wanted to talk to you as if you were her.

This film Brazil, though, came to my mind specifically when I was deciding what to talk about today, and at the end I will let you know why.

But first I want to mention what I miss the most about Jane, what is still burning in my mind and ripping away at my heart.

You might have noticed that I am a bit of a talker. I waffle along, making loose associations and connections, letting my thoughts wander and my narrative runs with it. I said before that I am a weave talker and so was Jane. I like mixing things and repeating, like a musical from the mind of a maniac.

But I also love the thrust of good argument, and like heated passionate debate. That style of discussion means that hurt feelings can occur. So in my life I have probably had a shouting rant with almost everyone I have met or come to know as friends.

Except one.

To my recollection Jane and I never argued from mere emotions. We had heated debate and disagreement but not bad feeling. We never upset each other or shouted from a purely emotional stance.

It wasn’t that we were cold and calculated, far from it, I just said I was passionate and so was Jane. It was more that the other person usually had constructed a clever position so that you couldn’t get mad it was too much fun being taxed into thinking how to counter what they were saying.

Also Jane was phenomenally good at using a sarcastic swipe to end a discussion and change tactic. I think that Jane was one of the people in my life who knew me on a very deep level for so long that we almost wore each other’s skin. We knew how the other person would think and feel.

What tears at me is that I will never have those conversations, I will never learn from her again, and I did learn from her. I know that Jane was one of my great teachers. A person who was not only my friend, my confidant in many ways, but she also had a lot to show and I had a lot that I had to learn.

The last thing that Jane had to teach me she did so after she died. I have lost a lot of people I know, we all do. I lost my grandparents when I was young and although I know I was sad, I wasn’t that sad as I was too young.

I lost my father when I was in my twenties but that wasn’t that sad, he was estranged and I hardly knew him to understand if I cared that much about his passing, even now I feel ambivalent to his death. He wasn’t that good to my mother and he seemed to care very little for me.

I have seen friends die but no one this close. Jane is the first person that I have lost who was so close to me that we were close family, we were siblings. Jane gave me a final lesson, a study in grief.

Had I lost someone this close who I didn’t have such a conversive relationship with it would be different I think. I find myself talking to her, like now, as if she was still there. This whole narrative, like the two other eulogies I wrote is made for her to hear, for her to approve of, for her to discuss with. I can wear her skin and know which bits she will smile at, which bits will make her roll her eyes and when she will touch my arm with quiet understanding or hug me to let a feeling be shared.

I wish I had never learned this lesson, I cannot really thank her for it. I wish she was still here to tell me to cheer up and not be such a miserable old bugger. I miss my friend.

I do though thank her for all the things she did have time to teach me. Jane had the most profound effect on the way that I discussed and thought about things, she still has that effect as I am drastically changed from knowing her. Meeting her at University at a point where I was expanding my thinking and seeing someone who was so clever, incisive, kind, cutting and funny without being selfish or malicious changed the way I am.

Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself
I thought I was
Someone else, someone good
(Lou Reed, Perfect Day)

Last week would have been Jane’s 9th wedding anniversary, and the great constructs that are Facebook and Google reminded me of this. Facebook showed me memories and asked me to reshare my day from nine years ago while Google did an On This Day collage of wonderful pictures of Jane.

Once again she haunted my whole day and every time I looked around I was sure I caught a glimpse of her. I could see her looking up at me eyes glinting from some secret thought, smile broadening as she was about to share some special insight. Again I was thinking about loss and I avoided songs.

I have been avoiding some songs. Some that we knew together, some that we didn’t really listen to with each other but they make me think of her. They bring her back to be an emotion colouring my day.

I was thinking that I would share another anecdote with you. I could talk about the time we drove Jane to London just before her Kidney operation. None of us wanted to talk as we had spoke all weekend and this was possibly a last goodbye. We had Sara Cox  on the radio and she had asked for stories of things that you had to do that were scary, she was facing a horse riding adventure and was worried about it.

Nathan, Leigh and I were with Jane and she sent the message about going for her operation and a song request. Neither Nathan or I can recall the requested song.[*] We spent all of that journey waiting without relief for the song to be played and just as we pulled up to stop the text was read out and Sara played the song. It was a good sign, a sign of hope.

I asked Nathan if he could recall which song it was as my memory was failing me but like me he had so many other thoughts from that day that the song escapes us both. A fragment of history whisked away by time and other feelings.

The differences between the organic and the inorganic, the people and the machine. One remembers and the other knows how to forget.

Our technology mirrors the construct of our minds, sometimes. Designed and built by humans the machines follow the same patterns and emulate the same abilities and affinities.

Even as machines and the software that controls them start to automate the construction and design of their own systems, it too is mirroring nature. The algorithms used to programmatically determine the outcome follow numerical values and are based around naturally deterministic systems. Machines will follow a society as much as we have for we are creating them to understand the meaning and not just the structure of reality. We create complex computer languages that underpins their relationships and understanding.

The dimension we can loosely call cyberspace is an exo-brain for the species, an extension of our shared, and maybe collective, consciousness. As a species our experience of the world is grounded in our interactions and shared definitions. So too is our relationship in the growing online world.

No Last Wishes

I see glimpses of you,
They drift across my mind,
Darkness closes in,
Smiles shift to tears.

Thinking of your words,
Phrases I thought I’d lost,
Memories left to haunt,
Emphasize, and punctuate, sorrow.

I’d trade all the time we shared,
Just to hear your voice,
Just to see your smile,
Just to hold you close.
(Mark Keating, 2017)

My memory already fades and moments of my friend seem to untether and slip away, when I think of her I see a lot of pictures and occasionally a shared experience. But the photos and electronic material are so much richer in colour and definition.

What they don’t have is her touch. If I focus hard I can feel her touch on my hand, the last gentle squeeze of friendship, the last hug where we kissed cheeks and she held the back of my neck.

I loved my friend. It was the love of a brother to a sister or a child to a parent. She was my family.

All that remains are the fragments inside my mind, the human machine, and the ephemera in cyberspace.

In Brazil the protagonist’s father is called Jeremiah, and that name is used as an anagram in an unlock code. In a direct quote from the film a character reveals the code when he tells the hero:

“‘Ere I am, J.H. …The ghost in the machine.”

Jane Haggerstone, who became Jane Harvey, my own JH. I came here to say goodbye one last time.

But I keep the spectres of her as electronic ephemera, shadows and reflections in my thoughts, and the lingering pain, a loss, in my heart.

Here you are Jane, a ghost in this machine.

[*] After reading this Leigh has made the point that we may not have requested a song but merely offered a text explaining what the thing was we feared. This would likely explain why we cannot recall what song was played. Nathan attempted to contact Sara Cox but had no reply by the time we had the service.

Doughnut: A Eulogy in Two Parts – Fit the Second

Memorial Service Eulogy

[On 21st April 2017 my friend of 25 years died after a long and complicated period of illness. She and I shared a friendship that I find hard to easily explain, but it is enough to say that she was very dear to me. Jane asked that I spoke at her Funeral (on 5th May) and at her Memorial Service (7th May).

Since publishing part one I have discovered that this is apparently National Doughnut Week. I think Jane would have loved my timing and the fact that I was oblivious until tagged on Social Media.

I have published my eulogies in honour to my friend and for those who could not be in attendance… I miss you Jane.]


“You lived what anybody gets. You got a lifetime.”
[Reference not spoken, just the quote (Neil Gaimen: Sandman)]

It is a curious thing, to give two eulogies. It might seem like one too many but for Jane Harvey, and for me I always used Jane Haggerstone, but she was also always the SuperHero name that I gave to her, ‘Princess Planetary Pants’, it is an immeasurable number of too few things I want to say, all to her.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
[Reference not spoken, just the quote
(Lewis Carroll: The Walrus and the Carpenter)]

So this is the sequel to Friday’s thoughts when I spoke at Jane’s funeral and I told a story about a cake. Today I want to talk more about Jane as I knew her than I did on Friday but I still have an anecdote about her to share.

I met Jane in 1992, we were both at University, and I would loved to tell you that it was a friendship immediately forged in steel and bonded with granite.

But it wasn’t.

I think, and I cannot be one hundred percent certain with the mists of recollection, I found her a little cold, or maybe aloof. Clearly intelligent, clearly sarcastic. But maybe too insightful and too engaged on her own self.

For her part I think she thought I was a bit of a pillock.

But within the first two years of meeting I learned she was a very special person.

Caring, is what she embodied, and she could be so without be patronising.

Jane genuinely felt for the world.

It is why she believed so much in the National Health Service, to the ideal of healing without asking for recompense.

Jane was a believer in social responsibility and a duty of care.

Jane was a person who exhibited what I would like to call random acts of kindness. She would reach out seemingly at random to help someone or be kind to someone without thinking why, without even needing to know them.

Jane was genuinely empathic. She could look at you and instantly know if you were in need. If I was sad or bursting with a secret joy, Jane would know I wouldn’t have to say.

And Jane had a biting intellect.

She was academically smart but she did not use it as a platform for a state of one-upmanship. She was able to hold a deep understanding of subjects, concepts and ideas that were newly introduced to her and be able to discuss and examine them.

But the main use that Jane put her intellect to, was to understand and be insightful. She had this manner that made you question and search yourself with the sole intention of making you better at being yourself.

I learned to respect, admire and hold dear this caring intelligent person over many months of getting to know her better.

For her part, during the same time, I think she learned something about me as well.

It was that she was right.

I was a bit of a pillock. But at least a loveable one.

You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
[Reference not spoken, just the quote
(David Harkins: She Is Gone (He Is Gone))

Now, I should warn you. I was given some specific tasks by Jane in talking to you today.

One was that I should wear pink and be shocking, which I have achieved, and perhaps, also, to berate you if you are not equally as shocking. So as I look at you now I am making a mental note of all those who are not wearing something exuberant for her.

A second was to make sure that you all at least smiled, if only briefly in recollection of her.

My role is to stop you being, as she would put it, ‘bloody miserable buggers’.

Since I am a master of bad jokes and this is an inappropriate point I have to say what do you call a doe with no eyes. I have no idea.

Jane wanted me to share some joy with you. If she was here we would be wildly inappropriate in our comments to each other, in fact I could hear most of her comments in my head as I wrote both of these eulogies.

Jane was a deeply happy person. Or at least that was the face she chose to share.

She did not like to burden people with her own troubles. It is why her choice of entertainment was things that were fun. She felt the need to be filled with joy and to spread that joy to others.

But it didn’t stop her from telling people if they were wrong, silly or in need of a swift kick up the backside.

One of the main things Jane and I bonded over, where our friendship rooted itself was in the love of art.

Jane was a person who loved a range of different genres of theatre, comedy and literature. She was also a deeply passionate soul and so was drawn to art and visual stimulus along with the written and audible.

Jane had the deep philosophical insight to examine and interpret art, often seeing different meaning than others might. She was one of my biggest fans and loved my own personal stories, poems and even the parodies that I flippantly wrote.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
were sitting in a pub,
to the Walrus, called the Carpenter,
`give my poor belly a rub,
for I have drunk enough,’ said he,
`to fill a whole bath tub’.
[Reference not spoken, just the quote
(Mark Keating: The Walrus and the Carpenter[2])

She believed in me when I could not. She believed in people and that they could be the best person.

Jane wrote herself and I regret that she didn’t have the time to write more as she had an insight into the human condition that she was able to express well in story form.

There was a tradition that when we would meet, whether it had been just a week, or if many months had passed, we would talk and chew the fat and go until the dawn was lightening the sky. It was easy to talk to Jane and was easy to listen to her.

Jane and I would talk often through the night. We were weave talkers, drifting across subjects and ideas, using memories and snippets of research, to be wandering minds that occasionally threw out pieces of distracted wisdom and bad jokes.

To jump in with eyes closed but heart open.

Soon as she was gone from me,
A traveler came by,
Silently, invisibly
He took her with a sigh.
[Reference not spoken, just the quote (William Blake: Love’s Secret)]

I want to tell you a short tale about Jane now, and this is all about a hole.

When Jane became very sick, or at least admitted to herself that she was very sick and much of her life and career changed she went through a period of great emotional upheaval.

Or at least that is how it appeared from the outside.

To those of us who knew her it is more than that, it was as if she turned that very insightful gaze upon herself and knew she had to change in an irrevocable way.

During this period she returned to her faith and decided to be re-baptised.

When this happened Jane asked me to be at her baptism. Jane knew what my personal beliefs were and she knew about my own past. For my part I knew that this was deeply important to her and I felt privileged to be asked. So clearly I was there for her.

At her baptism she gave a short speech that has stuck with me all these years because it was so important and said so much about her.

She would forgive the vagaries of my memory as I let you know this is broadly what she said without being an exact recital.

‘When I was a teenager I felt that I had a hole inside me, a hole I couldn’t describe but it had always been there. Just as if something was missing.

So I went to college, to learn how to be a nurse to try and fill that hole. Although I learned and became a nurse the hole was still there.

So I had relationships. I believed it was because I was not fulfilled with love. So I loved deeply, I did love enough it seemed to fill any hole. But even with someone I loved, the hole was still there.

I filled my life with my career. I had a job and I tried hard at it. I learned more and reached out for more experience. I tried to make the career fill the hole. But the hole was still there.

I travelled, I visited faraway places and searched for meaning in the new locations and experiences. But still the hole was with me.

I had a world filled with social desires. Of dancing, singing and groups and entertainment, of friends and fancies and yet this did not fill the hole, the hole was still there.

When all of that went away. When I was sick. When I cried in the night and when I was lost the hole was still with me. But no larger than before.

The hole was still there.

Then I found God. And the hole that was in me was suddenly filled up and I felt whole.

That’s when I knew that the hole that was there was where God belonged.’

Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.

Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet Delight.

Some ar Born to sweet Delight,
Some are born to Endless Night.

We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro’ the Eye

Which was Born in a Night to Perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light.

God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in the Night,

But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day.

[Reference not spoken, just the quote (William Blake: Auguries Of Innocence)]

For me, now that Jane is gone, I feel the world, perhaps even the universe, has a hole in it. A Jane shaped hole. She was so unique it feels like it cannot be filled.

And at this time I feel there is a hole in my heart. It may be filled with memories that I know must fade, but it is there and it hurts.

But Jane already showed me what to do with my hole, she spent her life showing all of us.

I will fill that hole with joy, and love for my family, my friends, and for random others.

That is all it seemed my friend wanted, what she wanted from all of us.

To love and be loved and to share that joy with others.

Do random acts of kindness for her.

Smile, wear bright and gaudy colours like pink and purple and orange.

Tell an awful joke or two and at some times, be wildly inappropriate.

Over these two eulogies I told you about a cake and a hole. Just for her, a poor dad joke pun. A cake and a hole, I made a doughnut.

If I should die before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone

Nor, when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.

Weep if you must
Parting is hell.

But life goes on.
So sing as well.
[Reference not spoken, just the quote
(Joyce Grenfell: If I should die before the rest of you)]


Doughnut: A Eulogy in Two Parts – Fit the First

Funeral Eulogy

[On 21st April 2017 my friend of 25 years died after a long and complicated period of illness. She and I shared a friendship that I find hard to easily explain, but it is enough to say that she was very dear to me. Jane asked that I spoke at her Funeral (on 5th May) and at her Memorial Service (7th May).

I have published my eulogies in honour to my friend and for those who could not be in attendance… I miss you Jane.]

“Farewell to thee! but not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of thee:
Within my heart they still shall dwell;
And they shall cheer and comfort me.”
[Reference not spoken, just the quote (Anne Brontë)]

I have two talks to give about Jane this weekend and together they probably make a doughnut.

Even before Jane became desperately ill we had discussed funerals and in particular what would happen if one of us outlived the other.

It’s not that we were morbid or anything, okay maybe a little, we were goths after all.

We just discussed it as we knew by then that our friendship was going to last a lifetime, in many ways it already had.

I believe at the time we had always hoped it was in some far distant future when we were very old and could be disreputable and maybe spit in the street or swear fit to burst. We could have at least worn purple.

It is at this point that I should scan you all to make sure there are no sensitive ears, and as Leigh would say ‘apply a filter to my speech’, I can see there are small children so I can’t be too blue. Many of you know that Jane could use a profane word if required to make a point but she would not wish me to offend the young’.

‘Right Markie’, Jane said, ‘I want you to smile for me.’

‘And I want you to tell bad jokes. it is, after all the, only type of joke you know.

There were these two goldfish in a tank, and one of them turned to the other and said ‘Do you know how to drive this thing?’.

Tell dad jokes and make people groan, otherwise they’re gonna be a bunch of miserable Buggers.’

‘Also I am choosing you to talk as there is a high chance that you’ll screw this up and make people laugh a little anyway.’

[The original written version used ‘Bastards’ and ‘Cock’ but was changed to help facilitate the observance to sensitive ears.]

Another job I had was to wear pink.’ I can’t stand to think that everyone will just be dressed in black, I love pink, something bright and shocking is what’s required. I hope that people are wearing pinks and oranges and purples.’ is what she would say.

‘Also Keating I want you to say something different for me. Just say something about me. I don’t want this to be a sad litany of what I had achieved or how much I did something or another.’

‘Tell them a story. Tell them something they may not know, it does not matter if they do know it. I want it to be how you saw it. How you knew me. So today for her, I want to tell you about a cake.

Think of this as I tell you this story. We all meet people as we pass through life:

  • Sometimes they make a great impact and are with you for a long time;
  • Sometimes they make a small impact as they pass you fleetingly;
  • It will be no surprise to you that Jane changed me a lot.

When we left college and Jane moved away to the south we kept in touch. For many years we had a tradition that we met up at least at New Year and also usually in the summer for a week as well.

Mostly it involved travelling and staying with the other person, or their parents and I am sure John can attest to how often we crashed his house. We just liked having a laugh.

One New Year’s eve Jane rang and told me should would be late. She would be there for New Year but would be delayed because she had to bake a cake.

I said fine, knowing that I was getting cake and Jane made a tasty sweet treat.

She arrived, late as advertised, and we settled down to talking, laughing and telling of probably awful jokes. After a while I asked about the cake.

‘Cake’ was her reply in a slightly surprised voice.

‘Yeah, you said you were baking a cake? I thought we should eat it to balance all the soft drinks we have consumed!’

‘Oh that wasn’t for you.’

‘Ah’. Now I wasn’t upset, may be a little at this point. I like cake, I liked Jane’s cake especially lemon drizzle cake with custard.

‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘I thought you were getting us all cake, I went out and sourced some custard.’

She smiled and laughed a little, ‘we can still have the custard.’

I of course got to asking who the cake was for, ‘well,’ she says, ‘each year when I come up here I use the Toll Road, and it occurred to me that the poor buggers on the toll road have to work on New Year’s Eve which has got to be pretty miserable. So I made them a cake.’

As I tell you this now it still stuns me how Jane’s mind used to work.

She had such a great deal of empathy for her fellow human beings.

People she had never met

People who were being paid to do a job.

They were in her heart and in her thoughts. She made them cake to cheer their New Year.

“And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.”
[Reference not spoken, just the quote 
(Byron: She Walks in Beauty)]

Some people are with you a long time and have a great affect on your life.

Some are with you fleetingly and have almost none. They might, sometimes, change you in a subtle way.

Jane was a rare individual. She could be with you for a fleeting moment and yet make a great difference.

Imagine for a moment being the person who receives a cake as a gift from a total stranger just to cheer your day.

A small thing that can have far reaching meaning in an otherwise dreary time.

Jane exhibited what I like to think of as random acts of kindness. Part of me hopes there was some greater, more subtle plan.

In reality I know it was something else.

It was that Jane was an exceptional human being who thought far greater than most people, who truly cared beyond herself. It made her a rarity.

“But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!”
[Reference not spoken, just the quote 
(Byron: She Walks in Beauty)]

To end today I am going to follow a tradition and misquote a favourite writer.

‘She was my friend. Take her for all in all. I shall not look upon her like again.’.
[Reference not spoken, just the quote 
(Shakespeare: Hamlet)]