Tagged: Eulogy

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)]