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Sunday, 12 February 2017


The last two weeks have been emotionally draining. Three friends have died and the 12 year old daughter of our other friends also passed three days ago. With all this news and especially after the memorial I attended yesterday, I'm feeling raw, as if someone has sliced me open with one of those cheap tin openers which has a blade and hook on it and you kind of carve your way around the tin - except it feels like my chest got carved open and my pulpy tender heart got exposed.

It doesn't really matter what they all died from. The fact is, they passed, and in every case they were someone somehow connected to me, but more importantly someone else's precious father, son, brother, sister, daughter, uncle, niece, in-law, business partner or best friend. And when they passed, whether they had time to say goodbye to anyone or not, they were gone. Maybe not in their essence, or their legacy, or their photographs, but physically they will no longer be around to hug, hold, kiss, play, make love, share a joke, discuss things that matter, go out to dinner, interact, love, give advice, touch, create or do the myriad of things they did.

We attended Stuart Wilson's memorial two weeks ago, I missed Guy Muller's service as it was in Honduras, but exchanged  many wonderful reminiscing messages with all of our mutual friends and mini-memorials were set up in Johannesburg and Cape Town by some of our other rowing friends. Yesterday we went to the memorial of Chick Flack. Next week will be a service for little Annabelle Ireland. That may prove the most challenging.

Other than the losses, what has struck me so forcefully - not for the first time of course, but more so having been in memorial mode for the past few weeks - is the huge outpouring during speeches at funerals and memorials and on social media of acknowledgment of the deceased and sorrow for his or her departure. 

Yesterday we heard a beautiful web of interwoven tributes to Chick which eloquently and sometimes tearfully described what an extraordinary man he was. I've known Chick and his wonderful family for about 10 years, but still learnt so much about the essence of the man. We heard of his loyalty, his extraordinary 50-plus year love affair with Danna, his devotion to his family, his doggedness, single-mindedness to make things happen, generosity, kindness, ability to make everyone around him and whom he met feel as if they truly mattered, the legacy he created and left, his impatience with fools and slow drivers and a plethora of other qualities and eccentricities. 

And whilst I sat there feeling and properly understanding the depth and extent of the loss experienced by his family and friends, I kept on thinking: I wish Chick could have heard all of this.

I don't doubt that he knew a lot of what was shared yesterday - for instance, some words were read out which had been written by Danna to Chick on occasions of past wedding anniversaries - and he had more than an inkling of how much he was loved by his family and friends, but I wonder if he knew just how much people saw and appreciated in and about him. And I wondered how much of a difference it might have made to him before he passed knowing just how big a mark he had left on planet Earth.

All of us go about our lives doing the best we can, but often have no real idea whether we are making a difference, how other people see us or whether what we do is in any way noticed or appreciated. Which is not to say that we must do things to get acknowledgment - that has a narcissistic feel to it - but given that we don't always see ourselves as we truly are, wouldn't it be nice for people to say from time to time: I see you.

Perhaps some of his friends and family didn't know exactly what Chick thought about or saw in them. What if there was more he could have said before he passed which would have made the parting a little easier for everyone? 

As I draw to the end of my musing, the piece that I wanted to share is that we have a daily opportunity to share with people what we know and appreciate about them, and however anathema that might be to some people, I don't know a better way of enhancing connections and ensuring completeness with people when they finally pass out of our lives. I also don't know a clearer route to regret than waiting to share your piece with the other, and then he dies with the piece left unsaid.

So, I'm not asking for (and don't need acknowledgment), but if there is anything you want me (or indeed anyone else) to know, please don't wait until my (their) funeral to share it with a bunch of other people who aren't me (them).

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