Memory, Time and Space.

Just recently I heard of a friend’s sudden death. I had not seen this person for years but he had played a major part in a particularly happy time in my life; a creative and joyful time emerging from the darkness of my early teens. We were so young, knowing each other at that point in life when the possibilities appeared infinite and the obstacles few. I was always impressed with the energy of his focus and self-belief; he seemed to have little doubt that he would achieve some kind of greatness.

We were employed as part of a small group that performed educational plays for children, travelling around schools in an old converted ambulance or performing them at our base in the local drama centre. The group was part of the then controversial Youth Opportunities Programme set up by Thatcher’s government in the early eighties. Compared to most placements on this draconian and rather pointless scheme, the drama centre groups were wonderful and creative, an expansive series of projects that somehow slipped through the net of Thatcher’s deeply negative ideological prejudices. It couldn’t be allowed to last. The government axed the drama groups, allegedly as a money saving exercise – it was a heart-breaking moment.

I loved going to work each day. The whole experience rather ruined me for ‘normal’ employment, giving me a tantalising glimpse of a working life that could transcend the drudgery that my poor father had endured to support his family. It intensified my desire to only ever accept work that was fulfilling, that possessed real meaning for me (necessity has occasionally meant otherwise!).

There were seven in the group, all of us harbouring dreams of working in theatre. I was training to be a dancer, loved singing and yearned to do both on the stage. My friend wanted to be an actor. Strangely, we each ended up singing in bands, he having the most material success, all that energy and self-belief too intense to be denied. The last time I saw him his band had just been signed to Warner Brothers and looked like breaking through in a major way. Sadly, despite being signed to three separate labels with different bands over the years, he never really broke through in the manner he would have wanted. Over time, news filtered back that he had developed a serious heroine habit. I am unsure but it seems likely that this was in some way responsible for his sudden death at his home in L.A. He was 42.

I have been surprised at how upset I have felt; how at odds his shockingly early demise is to my memory of him. Of all the endings that could have befallen him, I would never have envisaged this. Despite the regrettable sense of romance he felt regarding the relationship between drugs and music, I always assumed he would still emerge intact. My memory of him is so closely tied to hopeful beginnings, to wide open futures that hadn’t yet been tied down by responsibility or circumstance, that hadn’t yet been channelled or narrowed by experience and lessening expectations. He is so vitally alive in my memory, full of that awesome sense of ‘going somewhere’ that he always seemed to exude. Looking at the photos of us at seventeen, it strikes me how time and space really mean nothing in that inner place.

What is also painful to admit is that he symbolises something of the hopes I had for myself back then; the belief that dreams would be realised. If I am honest, my genuine sadness at his death is also a little tinged with the acknowledgement that many of my own dreams died far too early, never quite breaking through.

And yet, memories are not just dead and lifeless things; they keep us connected to something vital in ourselves, helping us to feel the threads of our being woven into the core of life. Joy and hope, anticipation and the belief that our living is not in vain are fundamentals, ones that – despite the disappointments and regrets that we might each encounter – are always there for us to return to. Like the people, places and events that remain so vibrant in our memories, these qualities are never truly lost.

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5 Comments

  1. Christine Croft said,

    June 19, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Sorry to hear about the death of an old friend. I understand what you mean about our own hopes and dreams never being realised. I do sometimes wonder what happened to people I knew in the past and also what might have been if I had taken a different decision about the directions I took. I sometimes feel like I am travelling back in time and am looking at past events. Perhaps it is something that happens when one gets older and wiser! I don’t dwell on stuff anymore just try to keep moving forward, learning and remembering that there is always “hope”. Love Chris (Your blog is very educational for me).

  2. Christine Croft said,

    June 19, 2009 at 11:49 am

    And… What I have noticed when looking over past events is that quite often I have been nudged in directions I may not have ultimately chosen. Which reminds me of a line from a song: “The Creator has a master plan, there’s some happiness for everyman” so maybe there is some kind of path for each of us that we always come back too and in the long term it is for our best interests (life lessons and all that). Despite your friends untimely death, lets hope he had some happiness too.

  3. luckyloom1 said,

    June 19, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    That’s beautiful – thank you Chris! I think you are absolutely right. I keep thinking of Laurie speaking about his sister’s death; he described her as having died ‘mid sentence’. But then of course we probably all do. I really feel that we get to finish what we are saying some time, some place else – our stories are long, complex, beautiful and meaningful ones; the constant inhaling of life and exhaling of death the rhythm of a much longer tale that we are creating/telling. And what is so moving to me is the people that touch us along the way (I include you in this my lovely one – I have always got so much out of our talks together), how those unexpected changes in direction bring us to folks who change and enrich our lives. It’s an extraordinary and inspiring mystery, isn’t it?

    Thanks so much Chris for your wonderful comments
    All my love Maria XXXXXXX

  4. Mama Kelly said,

    June 22, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. Be blessed!

  5. luckyloom1 said,

    June 22, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    Thank you Mama Kelly. X


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