Dear friends and readers,
Just what you were longing for. Another photo of my Admiral, this time from the 1980s, an era I had not put photos from here (though I have put a couple now on Austen reveries, and Ellen & Jim have a blog, two). People grieve in highly individual ways, and one way I’m coping with Jim not being here, his disappearance, this void, is to counter it. I’m gathering photos of him that I have cherished especially and putting them in frames and placing them about the house (and on the Net). I’m telling of good memories. I am doing what I can to keep him alive still (what else did I do for 5 months) & to remember what he valued, bringing him back in my mind.
I will at some further point return to how he died and the disease, cancer. It’s crucially important that people begin to put into the public realm the terrible suffering this disease causes, how it’s a killer (it’s not become something most people just endure as chronic), how the medical profession mistreats, exploits & fleeces patients, the complicity of its agencies (MLA, FDA) and the centrality of our increasingly (still) carcinogenic environment. Have a look at this essay by Spock way back in 1982; in French’s Season in Hell (she survived esophageal cancer) French tells us of how the Central Illinois Public Service Company of Springfield was ordered to pay $3 million to one family among many in Illinois destroyed by a rare form of cancer, neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nerve endings; at the time of her writing her book (1995) Amerencips was appealing. I’ve just been offered a copy of Malignant to review: Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us by S. Lochlann Jain: “Nearly half of all Americans will be diagnosed with an invasive cancer—an all-too ordinary aspect of daily life …” Reading some of the brief reviews it may be a book justifying the present situation (see how complex it is all is), a stalking horse for the ACS.
But just now I’ve not the strength to go into this. Instead I’m telling of his favorite poetry, writing some myself. For the funeral cards (given out to people who come) I chose three stanzas which, put together, seemed to me to mirror the more English aspects of his tastes. There will be three sets, each having a stanza.
You know about Basil Bunting; the Admiral’s preference for formal elements in poetry; to me that Bunting’s poetry is Yorkshire where he and I met makes it more yet. I remember one day we went to York Minster, stayed in a neaarby pub, walked all around the moors
A thrush in the syringa sings.
Hunger ruffles my wings, fear,
lust, familiar things
Death thrusts hard. My sons
by hawk’s beak, by stones,
trusting weak wings
by cat and weasel, die.
Thunder smothers the sky.
From a shaken bush I
list familiar things
fear, hunger, lust.
O gay thrush!
— Basil Bunting
The admiral had a weakness for Rupert Brooke and we have two books of his poetry in the house:
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies and truth and pain? …. oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?
— Rupert Brooke
Beyond Grantchester,, he remembered Brooke in the gently ironic lines rooted in Jim’s classical learning (and opera, the urn we got is an imitation of one he saw in Handel’s Giulio Cesare as an HD mash-up) which we are having engraved on the urn with his ashes in it:
If I should die, think only this of me
That there’s some corner of a foreign mantelpiece
That is for a while England.
Another favorite was Betjemann. The admiral said he preferred the quietly sardonic, but the book he bought (with lovely illustrations) was Summoned by Bells:
DEAR lanes of Cornwall! With a one-inch map,
A bicycle and well-worn “Little Guide”,
Those were the years I used to ride for miles
To far-off churches. ….
In quest of mystical experience
I knelt in darkness at St. Enodoc;
I visited our local Holy Well,
Whereto the native Cornish still resort
For cures for whooping-cough, and drop bent pins
Into its peaty water . . . Not a sign:
No mystical experience was vouchsafed:
The maidenhair just trembled in the wind
And everything looked as it always looked . . .
But somewhere, somewhere underneath the dunes,
Somewhere among the cairns or in the caves
The Celtic saints would come to me, the ledge
Of time we walk on, like a thin cliff-path
High in the mist, would show the precipice.
— John Betjeman
We will have music at some point, and Caroline is looking for us on-line Jessie Norman singing Strauss’s Four Last Songs to make what she and Yvette call a play list.
The lyrics are by Hermann Hesse.
Jim would sit quietly listening.
The girl cat, Clary, is missing him. She sat near him all day & slept with him at night. Now she lays on Yvette’s bed all day and in his chair all night. I am not making this up.