The phone rings it is one thirty in the morning. There is no need to open my eyes. The conversation is short, Liz begins to cry. There is nothing I can do to help at the moment of the one certainty. For a minute we embrace. Liz gets out of bed, dresses and leaves. From the warmth of the bedroom, I watch her scrape ice from the windows. She drives away to comfort her mother. Half an hour ago her father entered his final sleep.
Today is Wednesday, in the four days since John Clark’s death, I have learned new life lessons. I knew John as a man of integrity, a sharp mind and terabyte memory. His friends covered the globe; his personal magnetism held bonds twenty or more years after their emigration. During the years at the University John earned respect from lecturers students and staff. He was a strong parent and father figure to his grand-children. He was reluctant to surrender his allotment; we miss the fruits of his labour, the tomatoes and greens were special treats. I mention the vegetable garden because he was in his eighth decade. Most people struggle to pick up a newspaper at eighty let alone a spade. The devotion to his wife Joan can only be described as diamond bright and steel strong. John Clark was a special man.
His daughter Liz Clark is evidence of his integrity, his high principles evident in her character. I am fortunate to be her partner and friend. Friendship is the blood of all deep and meaningful relationships; love is the intimate connection. Friendship is a catalyst which secures the bond of love. It is why I can write this essay. Today Liz is within the sadness of loss and the necessity of formality. She arranges the certificates, funeral and hidden facets of legal aspects of the death. Her brothers and family comfort Joan. Liz makes the notes, writes the cards, speaks to relevant departments and makes the formalities as comfortable as possible. Once out of the way she can then spend time with her grief.
We know many people and Liz has received many condolences. The friendship and kindness is a comfort. People ask me ‘How is Lizzy coping?’ ‘It must be terrible for her’ ‘I remember when…’ My answer is alway the same; ‘Lizzy is fine, she is working through her loss in her way. Life is her importance; she knows death is the conclusion of life.’ The answers are expected; ‘Ah! That is for the moment; it will hit her later on.’ ‘You be careful, hidden grief is a dangerous thing.’ And ‘I took me years to get over the death of my father.’ I see hidden dismay in their eyes, believing me callous. I know my answer is accurate, Liz understands the finality of death. She knows life outweighs death on the balance of existence.
Liz does not allow her father death to limit her future. She will continue to love him until she enters her ‘final sleep’. Within her love are hundreds of happy memories which cannot die. John’s integrity, honesty, friendship and love prepared his daughter for this challenging time. This is not to say John was not in fear of the certain truth. I believe death was a concern to him. However, he showed great courage during his final days. Liz will not mourn the passing of life; she will celebrate a life lived well. The silence of death cannot overwhelm the memory of life.
Many people are unable to cope with the loss of a friend, partner, parent. I knew a man who’s sorrow and grief withered his life away. He had so much to give to those who remained, and yet his legacy was one of dying of a broken heart. I wonder if his wife would have watched his demise with pleasure. What heirloom is a broken heart? There are parents who fail to teach their children to understand death. To my mind, to see a child survive and prosper without the aid of a parent is the evidence of parental guidance and nurturing. What help is the denial or fear of death? How unkind the mentor who sets a fear of mortality within a child’s mind.
Looking back over my journals, I read references to spirituals who enter into perpetual mourning for the loss of a human who was close. Should we not wonder if their teachings are to be questioned? If there is an eternal life, reincarnation or gifts in abundance for a life lived well; surely there should be no pain, just endless celebration? How hard the thought, how unfeeling this writer? Is truth the strength or a lie the weakness?
There was no feeling when my Father died he was not a nice man. A poor parent and human with selfish intent, hidden by a generosity used to cover up the truth. In my mind, there is no grief for loss of friend or foe. Perhaps a sadness for conversations, kindness and happy experience no longer to be enjoyed. My memories of friends and those I love cannot be tainted with tears, only celebrated with laughter. For those of no import, there is nothing. No vindictiveness either, nothing can be gained from negative memories of past associations. And to compound this conviction; My body will be transported from a mortuary to a private incinerator, and my ashes are to be cast to the wind in my favourite place, £762.00 ~ already paid.
I write about Liz Clark, my partner. I watch her resolve and dedication to her family, the organisation of the necessary protocols during this difficult time. I know the loss of her father will not full stop her life. Lizzy loves her grandchildren, family and life itself. Of course, there will be sadness and mourning. However, John will live on in his children and grandchildren. The truth is, the final sleep is the inevitable rest; there is no way to avoid its reality. Once accepted, we have a lifetime to enjoy the greatest gifts of life, happiness, integrity and truth. Those who fear anything, be it, a man, the many forms of debt, gods or death will be controlled by their fears. Liz Clark has no fear of anything and will always be free.
John Clark was a special man.