Sunday, 22 May 2011

In memoriam

I visited a very magical garden today. Terraced into the hillside of a burn in the Scottish Southern Uplands, it is the vision of a Nepalese family and specialises in Himalayan flowering plants. It was raining and unseasonably cool for late May. Wind chimes tolled and prayer flags flapped to and fro in the stiff wind. Every now and again a thinning of the cloud let through more light. The papery petals of blue poppies were suddenly backlit with translucent radiance. It was beautiful; a place where I imagined nothing bad could ever happen.

And then something bad did happen, something quite dreadful. I received a text message. The partner of a dear friend had died suddenly during the night before of a heart attack. He was still a young man, whom I knew well and liked very much. He and my friend had been married a little over four years. Their wedding had been a very special day of celebration. It would be hard to picture two people happier together.

I sat for some moments among the raindrops and the blue flowers utterly abandoned by words. Hours later I am still struck dumb by this inexplicable, random act of violence that has torn into the life of my friend and his family. I can barely begin to imagine their grief. In the absence of words I offer pictures; blue poppies in a magical garden, bowed by the blows of summer rain, then lit up as the cloud breaks. I offer them to the memory of Jim and with my strongest love and hope for Ian.

'Though lovers be lost love shall not; And death shall have no dominion.'


  1. Though lovers be lost love shall not..
    My heart understands perfectly... Life, love and death..
    Such grief, such sadness.. and poppies..
    For Jim, for Ian, for love..
    And death shall have no dominion.

  2. I am so terribly sorry about this news. Life is very unpredictable, and sometimes it seems to deliver more than we can receive. I wish Ian comfort... and you, as well. I am truly at a loss for words. I only hope time will heal such agony. But it is so true... that love survives... beyond life. It does.


  3. Thank you Madzia and Nevine. I have been thinking much today about the ripples that radiate outwards from a personal tragedy such as this, about how the ripples disturb others near and far. It is a reminder that ultimately we are all connected on a human plane that extends beyond mere acquaintance. We are none of us alone.

    In the words of Philip Larkin in An Arundel Tomb, 'What will survive of us is love'.

  4. Sorry to hear this, and to get the news at such a moment too.
    Dylan Thomas's reflections on the death of his father are always a good recourse at such times - to remember that 'Death shall have no dominion' - but for those left behind there is an empty space. But as you suggest, if we can fill it with love something indeed survives.

  5. Thank you for your kind words Greg. Years ago when my grandfather died I, rather falteringly, read 'And death shall have no dominion' at a small family ceremony before his funeral. I have always found it one of Dylan Thomas' most intimate and moving poems, although I thought it was occasioned by a personal wager with a friend rather than the death of his father which wasn't for another ten years or so ('Do not go gentle' being the result on that occasion). No matter, its call to an immortality of the soul long after the 'clean bones [are] gone' is a potent note of hope.

  6. Yes of course you are right about Dylan Thomas and "Do not go gentle ..' being the response to his father's death. I was confusing the two poems.