Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Today, I heard that a friend died. In my life, I have to say, I’ve been largely untouched by death. Of course people I have known died, but not too many people close to me. My grandparents died when I was pretty young, and I hardly knew them because we moved with the Army in those days. And I heard of a few deaths from people I went to school with, but I heard long after I was gone from there and long since I had known them.
My sweet Rottweiler, Detta, was really my first major death. I had her for 13 years, since she was just a ball of fur, and it hit me hard. She died of cancer, and my dad had recently been diagnosed, and that just made it that much harder.
And then my dad died. He’s been gone since 2007 and still sometimes I’m caught short, wanting to call him, to share some news with him, to ask him something.
And of course, there is the quite recent death of Bodhi, a stalwart and near constant companion for the last nine years. You know all about him, so I won’t go into that.
Tonight I found out a close friend died. And this poem was the first thing that popped into my head. I tried to shake it – it didn’t seem quite right. I remember John Hannah reciting it at the funeral of his partner in Four Weddings and A Funeral and I thought, that’s not me at all. We hadn’t built a life together, we didn’t have the history that that poem speaks to…and yet.
Here’s to the grief of the never-to-be, the sorrow of the I-was-going-to.
To the pain of could-have-been, the remorse of the wish-I-would-have.
Here’s to the plane not taken, the call not made.
To the time not spent, to the press of the mundane.
If you are reading this, there’s a good chance I love you. This is my reminder (to me, and yes, to you) to step out, people, take the leap. Do the thing, whatever it is. Don’t wait.
And remember this poem, by Shel Silverstein.