Updated: Jan 6
Patrick's last sky.
A friend of mine, a man so great, respected internationally, who has translated ancient works from French, poems from Languedoc, Troubadour tales from Provencal, and whose recent book on Spain’s most beloved poet received international attention, has faded in to oblivion. That wonderful mind, that inspiring character, that soul so strong, now nothing.
A week or two ago I rang; his wife, anxious, protectively said he was too weak to talk but hearing that it was me he wanted to and we had a magical moment. I wanted to ring again, but didn’t wish to upset him nor his wife; I now wish I had.
What did Patrick go through? I’ve been creating regular images for him to look at, assuming he was beyond reading and his reply two weeks ago was, “You know, I’m still lucid.”
Yes, and my mother was lucid until her last evening, when she slipped into her final 12 hour coma. Even then I was able to communicate with her for two noticeable moments. Was Patrick in pain? Feverish? If only I knew. But then why did I feel the need to know? Because I loved him and part of love is sharing the other’s suffering so that you can relate to them during that specific period of their existence.
This man whose mind was so sharp, creative, powerful. This man whose translations of Spain’s Antonio Machado, prompted a letter from the world expert on Machado wishing they’d used Patrick’s sensitive translations in their current book. This man whose poems I, who dislike poems, love. This man who inspired so many, now a leaf floating off in the wind.
He’ll be remembered through his books, in the memories of admirers, of friends, and the large family he is leaving behind. I will remember fiery, flaming conversions fuelled with soul, emotion, reason, pin-point attention and great love as we drank too much wine under the stars. The time we shared an old, old bottle of Bordeaux as we watched the sun dip behind the ridge of our tent. This man who stumbled around the park with his dog until a month ago, this man so fit and strong, who accepted me as I was, this warm, generous, yet sometimes caustic man who’d flirt with any pretty woman and destroy any man at the table who his drunken mind perceived as a threat… but you forgave him because you knew the devil had gripped him and sure enough, twenty minutes later he was back being as charming as ever.
The morning I first met Patrick, though it were ten o’clock on a truly boiling morning, he insisted, "Though we've eaten, let's cook a huge ‘full-English’ breakfast swigged down with strong Arab coffee." Chatting non-stop we chopped mushrooms, washed tomatoes, fried sausages, potatoes and eggs and we cemented a friendship as we ate in the shade of a big tree. This man who organised symposiums of internationally respected writers. Patrick, a man who once asked me to open such an event with my own writing and who afterwards, along with all those present, kept badgering me to write my memoirs. Upon hearing that we were in financial trouble, ignoring our pleas that he didn’t, Patrick came and bought all sorts of stuff from us at prices he himself over-inflated…. This man who had everything, wealth, talent, charm, friends galore, international reputation, a thriving, bustling, intelligent family, a loyal, feisty, powerful wife with whom he argued openly and yet with whom he danced and laughed over life’s problems.
Yet in one hundred years, he will merely be an historic figure, that potent, inspiring life summed up in a few sentences, if he’s lucky. Dear Patrick. All that remarkable, amazing being now nothing but a memory, but who will continue in his offspring, that strong body which walked miles and miles and drank gallons of alcohol and ate so enthusiastically and cooked with flamboyance and who loved with such passion, soon to be dust. How strange this life. We think we are important, yet when it comes to it we are fodder for the worms, who are fodder for the birds, who are fodder for the snakes, who are fodder for the fungi and so on.
To me, the death of a loved one says this - “You are alive and no matter how uncomfortable it might be, live it with relish and with genuine compassion for those about you, as it will soon be too late and you will regret not being utterly attentive.” Life is not a penance, it is a precious gift of time. This fits what people feel when they are dying. The dying say they regret :-
not showing enough love; not spending more time with loved ones; helping others more; they wish they’d lived true to themselves not as expected by others; they’d been more honest about their feelings; they’d not burnt bridges; they had let themselves be happier; had stopped to smell the roses more; had lived more in the moment.
In these Covid times make yourself A Happy 2021 !