I went to a memorial service the other day for a 35 year old young man. He had mental health issues. He was unable to hold down a job, so he didn’t have much money. His mind often went on strange, intriguing flights of fancy, so his role in society was limited. Many people would say that he had a difficult life. Many people would have felt sorry for him.
But, he had a passion for life that drove him to enjoy the moment. He loved to stand out in the rain, even if there was thunder and lightning, because it was exciting to feel the water on his face. He loved to garden and tended his plants with utmost care and devotion. In fact he gave his plants and his cat far more attention than he gave himself. He loved people and they loved him. At the service a number of people brought bunches of flowers – particularly sunflowers (his favourites) – in honour of this fellow.
An opportunity was made for anyone who wanted to speak on his behalf. One chap got up, accompanied by his carer. He had that special way of holding his head slightly to the side, as if listening to a fairy orchestra that only he could hear. His fingers were splayed and twisted at his side, as if he were playing with invisible pieces of string. His attire was an interesting, eclectic mix of clothing that represented both genders. You would be tempted to feel a bit sorry for him but then, he spoke. He’d written a poem for his friend. It was exquisite. I’m not just saying that because he was “special”. I mean it was a poem of skill, word-craft, sensitivity and artistry. It sang.
Another friend played a solo on her violin. She said it was a piece she’d played for the young man’s garden a short while ago. (He liked to play music to his tomato plants.) And a young lady, almost a Goth but not quite, sang a little ditty that he had made up for her. “Siobhan grew into a butterfly that turned into a tsunami and the world ended.” (How brilliant is that!)
Up they came to the podium to honour their mate: the physically and mentally challenged; the slightly-not-right-looking; the living-on-the-margins people. And, they all spoke of the deceased’s beautiful smile and funny ways. They said that they loved him and their lives would never be the same for knowing him.
Many people would say that this young man was poor, disadvantaged, handicapped and that his short life didn’t amount to much. But, I say they’re wrong. His short life was a blaze of glory and love. He shone like the stars. He blessed others with his joyful, exuberant embrace of the simple things in life. He loved.
It was a privilege to attend his memorial service. I cried for his parents and siblings who are grieving his loss. I cried for his friends, for his little community, that have lost their shining light. Most of all, I cried because I was moved by the sheer beauty of the love his friends had for him and their courage in sharing that with us.
I think his life was just right.