Dave was buried this week. Work is full of noise and bustle and the busy busy ohso urgent, oh sour gent noises, musthave rightnow-ness of television. But Dave won’t be coming into work again. His clear blue eyes won’t be holding anyone’s gaze this week nor will he be responding to anyone with his, “Well, that’s just the thing, isn’t it?” That was just the thing. Now… now there’s no Dave.
The church was packed with more than two hundred people on Thursday afternoon as Ed, Dave’s partner for the past 17 years, stoicly stood up and bid farewell to the special person he’d shared his life with. A few friends remarked afterwards how liberated the church in Highgate was to openly acknowledge gay couples and welcome them to the congregation. More friends were simply lost for words. The sudden shock of a healthy man dying without warning, a man who was obviously loved and respected by a lot of people.
Dave was at work last Tuesday. He and Ed had just completed the purchase of a house in Turkey and, aged 41, Dave was planning on retiring in a couple of years, moving out there for most if not all of the year. Tuesday. Dave went home at the end of a typical day, if there is such a thing. He went to bed. And he never got up. A massive brain haemorrhage, they said. Hospital, life support, a heart attack and another haemorrhage. They said he wasn’t ever going to recover so, in a decision that no one would really want to make, they decided to switch the life support off.
A week later, we walked down the steep hill to Highgate Cemetary, sunshine peeking out from light cloud cover. The cemetary is a tangle of plants and headstones, uniquely beautiful, quiet, peaceful. Tucked away in one of London’s nicest villages. Karl Marx, the father of socialism is buried there, as are many many foreign nationals. Dave came from Staffordshire and only the Turkish dreamhouse we saw every day on his computer, his choice of Windows wallpaper, came from abroad. His family wept as the coffin was lowered down between the low hanging trees and the clergyman spoke the words of earth ashes and dust.
I wish I’d had something to say at the time, some words of comfort, a happy memory, perhaps. But the truth is Dave was an amiable colleague who I barely knew yet who always struck me as one of the good people. Perhaps that’s what I’ll write in the book of condolence. Otherwise, for me, death–all death, not just this one–still remains a mystery in many ways, necessary yet inexplicable. Something that on some level I try to comprehend through almost comicbook visualisation. Personification. A hollow spirit in a black clock carrying a sickle in a skeletal hand. Or something like that. The unreal made real.
Going to the funeral made it seem more real, somehow. An acknowledgement of the reality of death, of Dave’s parting from this world, our world. It comes to us all, of course. Yet you don’t expect to walk home one day, fit and young and full of life, and never see another sunrise. So we acknowledged that Dave has gone, not on holiday or on a long vacation, but into the ground, in a place of green tranquility to sleep the longest sleep of all. And if, perchance to dream, to dream peaceful soul resting dreams of a life well lived.