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Vale Jerome

April 8, 2012

In living there is always
the terror
of being stung

of something
coming for you
on the unavoidable wave

(from “Bluebottles” by Dorothy Porter in her collection The bee hut)

I have not posted since last week’s Monday musings, and there will be no Monday musings this week, but I will resume in a day or so. In the meantime, my heart is just a little too sore for reading and reviewing.

Last week, the 26 year-old son of good friends died, just over three years after being diagnosed with cancer. It goes without saying that he was too young. He had so much to give and so much to live for.

I have bothered and worried about whether to write this post. After all this is not my story – I am just one of the bit-players on the side – but in the end I decided that for we who like to write, writing is cathartic, and so here I am. But I am not going to tell the story. It is for those closer to tell. I simply wish to say that no matter how much you prepare for a death like this, it is still devastating when it comes.

I will leave you with Jerome’s own words written in January this year in his raw, honest, beautiful blog:

What is wrong with this world. How is it that so few spend their lives doing things they love and so many do [what] they hate for something they do not need. I want to shout to the masses but [s]o few would listen. I would not have listened.

This is it. Do it now. You will not be here again.

And with Dorothy Porter, because … well, you’ll see why:

and climbing
with this
young man
who was talking to me
about death
a good dose of death
if you truly drink it
is a gift

a gift
a fresh cold
a fresh dark
you’ll never sleep-walk
through your life

(from “The snow line”, also in The bee hut)

Thank you Jerome for sharing your pain, ideas and hard-earned wisdom so generously and openly over the last year. I am proud to have known you.

36 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2012 23:22

    Oh Mum. I find myself crying again, and feel so passionately caught within/by Jerome’s words against Dorothy Porter’s. He was so courageous, so brave, and so awe-inspiring in the way he wrote and lived. xoxo

    • April 8, 2012 23:27

      He was … I love this collection of Porter and love her writing of “talking and climbing” with the “glimmering young man”. Couldn’t get more apposite than that.

  2. April 8, 2012 23:56

    Ah, Sue, I wondered why you were absent from the usual places online, and now I know. My heart is with you…
    Lisa xx

    • April 9, 2012 00:03

      Thanks Lisa … we have known the family since Jerome, his sister and our daughter started playing clarinet together back in around 1997. We’ve watched the kids grow up and never, of course, thought something like this would happen.

  3. April 9, 2012 01:35

    I’ll join in with the condolences. There’s never much to be carried away from an early death. Dorothy Porter is right, a “good dose of death” can be a gift as the experience can redirect your life so that you stop sweating the small stuff and appreciate all that you have.

  4. April 9, 2012 04:56

    lovely poems so sorry to hear of your freinds loss ,just awful ,all the best stu

    • April 9, 2012 07:43

      Thanks Stu. Porter died through cancer too … Though she was in her early 50s. Still too early too. It says something about universality that much of what Jerome explored and thought could be found in Porter … And yet Jerome’s thoughts were original at the same time for being his and being expressed in language from his heart.

  5. April 9, 2012 06:38

    I am “with you” too, albeit in cyber-land. Life…so strange, so short.

    • April 9, 2012 07:45

      Thanks karenlee. Life is strange and hard to comprehend. I loved the way Jerome made his own sense and nonsense of it, because he could see the stupid things we all do and recognised his own humanity in it too.

  6. April 9, 2012 06:52

    Despite – or perhaps because of – the context this is a very beautiful post. And you’re right: Dorothy Porter knew about death, in more ways than one. But her very last poem? It was all about luck.

    • April 9, 2012 07:59

      Yes, thanks Nigel. I love that last poem too … It’s astonishing. When I decided I wanted to write something, I thought let’s forget Auden, as beautiful as his poem is, and look closer to home. I could have quoted more Jerome too … But that felt, right now, a little too close.

  7. April 9, 2012 07:29

    What a shame that you worried about whether to post such a lovely tribute and reminder that it can happen to any of us any time. I’m glad you did.

    • April 9, 2012 08:04

      Thanks bushmaid. It was a hard decision that even now I hope I made the right one.

      • April 9, 2012 09:20

        You certainly did. Thanks for the link to his blog too. It’s so honest and real, so beautifully expressed at times that it’s an inspiration even to someone who never knew him.

        • April 9, 2012 09:38

          Thanks, again, bushmaid. I thought hard and long about making the link too … But then decided he wrote it as a public document and clearly wanted to share. I’m glad you appreciate it.

  8. April 9, 2012 07:33

    Oh Sue … And at that same time the 25 year old son of a dear friend of mine hung himself and took his own beautiful vibrant life.

    Such is life in all its ghastly dimensions.

    Making some sense of it in the ways the verses suggest is the only way to claw through.

    Thoughts are with you all.

    • April 9, 2012 08:21

      Thanks magpie. What can I add to that except that reading and writing are often the only way we can make sense of life aren’t they.

      I love the fact that Jerome, who would not have seen himself as a writer when he started, chose to write and share his thoughts the way he did. It was often very painful to read but it was real and honest – the best sort of writing.

  9. April 9, 2012 11:05

    It is so heartbreaking to hear when someone so young loses their life. My thoughts are with his family and with yours as you deal with your grief as best you know how.

    • April 9, 2012 13:44

      Thanks Marg …. I will tell them about this post after tomorrow’s funeral, so they will see your sympathy then.

  10. April 9, 2012 13:04

    How very sad, my sincere condolences. I visited his blog, and realise that young Jerome was a very special person who will be grievously missed, though now at peace from pain..

    • April 9, 2012 13:46

      Thanks Anne … he was a special person as you clearly saw, and will be missed terribly. It’s good that he’s free from pain but of course we wish he’d never been there in the first place.

  11. April 9, 2012 13:45

    Ah, that’s terrible. Condolences.

  12. April 10, 2012 10:41

    I have no words to respond to what you’re going through… but just that my heart goes out to you and your friends. And thank you for sharing with us your grief, and these words and poems, which make it all the more poignant.

    • April 10, 2012 15:22

      Thanks Arti … it’s good to know people understand. Jerome’s words and the poems are great aren’t they.

  13. April 10, 2012 21:12

    My thoughts are with you, Sue. A wise soul gone too soon. John.

  14. April 11, 2012 02:14

    So sorry! But thanks for sharing about Jerome and the poems too. It is a shame that we need Jerome and others like him to remind us how to live. My condolences to you and his family.

    • April 11, 2012 07:30

      Oh, well said Stefanie. It is so, indeed. And thanks … I’ll be passing everyone’s wishes on.

  15. April 13, 2012 16:47

    A heartbreaking post. I can’t imagine the pain of Jerome’s parents, watching a son slip away. What a beautiful strong voice and next to Dorothy Porter’s smarting words, how still it makes one feel. Very sorry for all involved and your post was beautifully written.

    • April 13, 2012 18:43

      It’s horrendous, really, Catherine … has been such a long journey. He tried so hard to beat it – using medical and alternative therapies – but it wasn’t to be. His parents, and whole family, have been truly wonderful. The gap will be huge (of course).

  16. April 16, 2012 21:32

    How devastatingly sad for everyone involved. Such a beautiful post though Sue in response to such a tragedy. Thanks for the link to his blog, the post his wife wrote was incredibly moving. Any death of one so young is very hard to comprehend or accept.

    • April 16, 2012 22:20

      Thanks Louise. She did a wonderful job under devastating circumstances, didn’t she. She’s a very lovely girl (woman), as is the whole family. It’s been such a sad process.

  17. Meg permalink
    April 20, 2012 17:19

    I have been away. So sorry to hear of your sadness in the death of a friend. I think the blog and poem were very fitting.

    • April 20, 2012 19:35

      Oh thanks, Meg. It’s been so very sad. We saw his parents last night and they are going OK but it’s painful.

      BTW I did see an email from you re your trip. You were tramping the grounds my brother and his family did in January. I have a lovely woven shawl to show for it, complete with a birthday card featuring the maker. Sounds like a beautiful area.

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