Goodbye Ian McKie – a eulogy

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I intended to return on an upbeat flow of positive energy but so often it seems that life has other ideas. This post honours the passing of my oldest and dearest friend, Ian McKie. We met at college in Bristol, England in 1962 and immediately it was as if we had known each other forever. As years passed we became inseparable companions. We shared our first writings, our deep love of literature and poetry, the mysteries and beauty of our boho lives, our romantic relationships and heartbreaks, experiments in opening the doors of perception, long nights of drinking wine in the smoky dark cellar bars of Bristol, loud exchanges with friends over existentialism and the relevance of the Beat poets, wild dancing to jazz until dawn then watching the sun rise over the harbour as we breakfasted on bacon butties.

 

I left England for Canada in 1966 and Ian stayed in Bristol, a teacher now. We stayed in touch by occasional phone call and letter but those were pre-internet days and communication was sketchy and expensive. On the few occasions I flew home to visit my parents we came together again and it was always as if we had never separated. Once Ian came to visit me in British Columbia and we spent a mad month in Victoria reliving our early times together.

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Each of our lives evolved on different paths. When email and the Internet arrived we took advantage of it and wrote more frequently. Then there was Skype and we were able to talk to each other again. In the last five years Ian struggled through a difficult divorce, ill health and two cancer scares that ended positively. His physical problems increased but his mind remained clear and our talks were as they always were, full of wonder and humour at the vagaries of life, valuing what we had and how blessed we were to be alive and still be friends.

 

A few weeks ago Ian didn’t answer my email or my Skype calls and his silence continued. I kept trying, thinking maybe he was sick and in hospital, unable to communicate but would soon be home. After two weeks I was seriously concerned. Ian had never given me any of his Bristolian friends or ex wives’ email addresses or phone numbers. I had no one to contact to ask if he was okay. He had no children or surviving relatives and neither of us were on Face Book. Finally I emailed City Hall in Bristol explaining the situation. They emailed back saying that they had a death certificate for Ian…my friend was gone, just like that, gone…and I still can’t believe and I cry every day for him. Ian was 72.

So I post this in memory of him, to honour our friendship. I also post this in the faint hope that one of Ian’s friends somehow sees the connection on-line and gets in touch with me to tell me about how and when Ian died because I am in need of closure.

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Ian, me old acker, my shining main man,

tonight I was told you were gone

away from this world we have shared so long,

an email from a woman at your city hall,

her daily bureaucracy surrendering

to compassion, prompt in her reply,

her paper work undeniable, factual,

an uncompromising and cold goodbye.

So now I understand your silence

but understanding cannot stop these tears.

Where are you now dear one?

Beyond any reaching I can do or think.

This was no way to say farewell.

For weeks I have wondered where you are

fearing the worst but not knowing, unsure.

We should have anticipated, planned, shared contacts

 

but we never thought it would be as sudden

as this, and you sounded so alive

the last time we spoke. The last time.

Can you find me now my friend? Send a sign.

You know I loved you as a brother

so why did you leave me like this, in limbo?

How did you go? In your sleep without pain

I hope, but maybe I will never know.

Perhaps it was like boarding one of the trains

you loved so much, settling into a first class seat

and watching your life and the world flash by

outside the dusty windows, slowly receding

into the final light of darkness.

And these, my last words to you, rattling

with the iron tracks that carry you home.

A steam trumpet wailing in the night.

Our years were wine, laughter and poems on our tongues,

the beauty of salty, sandy women and fish and chips

by the western sea and pine scented baths

in the late afternoon light from the Channel

and Arthur bringing hot towels and tea,

and windy walks home to your house or mine,

our mothers immersed in cooking, and dogs

wanting to go out, and readings of Eliot.

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Can you hear me Ian, out there in the shadows?

Are you not allowed one phone call to me

to say a simple goodbye? Not much to ask

from the Great Mystery after a lifetime of love.

I am torn apart with losing you.

I am as cold and empty as you are now

as I search through soil and stars for you

to be with you one last time.

Do you remember once we talked for hours

of how each of us might greet our death?

As Dylan Thomas’..”do not go gentle..”

or with open arms of spiritual acceptance.

How was it for you my friend, at the end?

Did you “go gentle into that good night”?

Were you alone? I hope someone was there

holding your hand. I wish it had been me.

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You are gone, not just down the pub for ciggies,

but gone, completely, never coming back,

however much I write and call your name

you are gone, washed into the darkness on my tears.

I am lost in time, still hearing your voice

sending love through the airwaves of the night,

still feeling your arms around me the last time we met,

still holding you alive in my heart as I always have and always will.

 

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34 thoughts on “Goodbye Ian McKie – a eulogy

    1. Sad words Carl and thank you. Some friends drift away on the ocean of time, others stay on the beach with us, watching the tides come and go. Life is strange.

    1. Thank you Sam, your words mean so much to me and I do know that you are always there for me as I am always here for you. In the light of your life there is no room for darkness.

    1. I hear you Robert and thank you my friend, and I know I am not alone in my loss…all of us go through this at some point in our lives. To lose our friends, our parents, our loved ones…the truth of the inevitable…the acceptance of mortality…here and gone…so little time and all we can do is live our lives as fully, completely and as honestly as possible. Yes, it was a wonderful and long friendship and it’s hard to accept its ending, really hard, but it will live in my heart until that too is gone…

  1. I am so sorry for your loss John.

    “Goodbyes are only for those
    who love with their eyes.
    Because for those
    who love with heart and soul
    there is no such thing as separation.”
    ~Rumi

  2. Well here we are, John…come together for the wake of your friend Ian McKie. I raise my morning cup of PG Tips to the extraordinary bonds of friendship and love. What a treasure to have four eyes to see the world.
    Jana xxoo

  3. Bear – you know how I feel. I am sad for your pain but happy for your memories. Ian was a part of you and your very existence. He helped you be the man you are which is someone very special. Only friends can carve this niche in our lives. When we go we take a part with us but leave behind so much more. We have known each other since you came to Canada and I will make sure that the thread between us is never broken. Hugs

  4. My dear John, I am so sorry for the loss of your good friend. A strong friendship as such never really ends… Somehow I know he has received your ‘airwaves’. Sending you my thoughts and a hug.

  5. Your heart-felt words pour out John, but still with sensitivity and beauty. The sparks of life are so elusive. The glow remains, and the memory of those sparks. I imagine your friend would have had you in his mind and heart, just as you have him. I wish for you the “sign” you seek. Philippa

  6. Dear John, you have described your friendship with Ian so perfectly. I can truly imagine the two of you together and apart…what you meant for one another…together-apart and apart-together…absolute friendship. I read about your loss on the anniversary of Mom’s passing. Your words knocked the breath out of me…I said to myself, “Oh! Someone else gets this! Someone else knows the pain of loss!” Some times, when we are very steeped in the feelings around grief, we think that we are alone. I hope that you might hop onto the back of Ian’s memory, wrap your legs around this sacred blessed friendship, and hold on tight forever. In this way, we will know him…and he will never leave.

    1. Many, many thanks Liam and yes, the distance and not knowing does make closure difficult. I’m really hoping that someone Ian knew in Bristol sees my post…

  7. So sorry for your loss John. Your eulogy is a beautiful tribute to your friend and to lasting friendships everywhere.

  8. True friendship is such a miracle and such a gift. My heart breaks for you and yet I’m so glad you had this kind of friend. Not everyone is so lucky. I hope someone who knew him finds you.

  9. Overwhelmingly sad John. What a friendship. How many of us have such a friendship. Maybe he is allowed that one phone call but it’s on another frequency. I hope somebody sees your most touching elegy and contacts you.

    1. Thank you for your empathy Steven.I listen always on that other frequency. One connection happened from someone who knew Ian and I in the early ’60s but lost contact with both of us when I left England. They are researching for me over there and I’m hoping they might find something. But even if they don’t it is lovely to touch base with them again.

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