Friday, June 03, 2011


Steve Hartwell's death has renewed for me the mystery of absence. He was diagnosed after I left for the UK, and so our goodbye at the airport was my last glimpse of him—typically hospitable, loving, and engaged in an act of kindness.

Now he is gone, and it's impossible to go to his funeral.

I had a similar-but-different experience some years ago when Abbott Conway, the much-beloved scholar and vicar of Great Tew, died. Unlike Steve's death, it was sudden and unexpected: Abbott died in his sleep. Two days before it happened I had an email saying he wasn't feeling well. This was followed, the next day, by another, a perfectly normal one, recommending a book—and then, twelve hours later, suddenly he wasn't there any longer. Again, I couldn't go to the funeral: Abbott died here in the UK and I was in Alaska.

I don't know whether 'closure' is a good thing or not. In the uncertainty, their presence and absence flicker together in my consciousness, along with the intangible gifts that are their legacy, and gratitude.

At one level I still can't believe they are no longer 'there'. At another, I feel absence to the depth of my being, not just their absence, but my own absence, as I will one day not-be.


Anonymous Susan Law said...

Absence - closure - I've never found there to be any true closure. Nothing dilutes for me the mystery of absence following presence. Especially a well-loved presence.

Perhaps if I had a firm and very literal belief in God and the human soul, that might make a difference.

But in my experience, presence is also a great mystery, one sometimes most appreciated in silence.

5:06 pm, June 11, 2011  

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