I made the decision not to attend funerals, many years ago.
This decision was necessitated by one too many empty ceremonies filled with platitudes uttered by someone who didn’t know the deceased and inevitably feeling inadequate because I wasn’t emotionally responding in what I perceived as a right manner. Inevitably this would be followed by a wake filled with drunken and explosive pain.
When my mother died the family arranged a cremation but we were too grief stricken to organise a funeral service. Instead we had an afternoon gathering for those that loved her. We provided food and drink and had photographs of her running on a loop on a screen, creating a feel that some part of her was present for the occasion.
Thus my recent attendance of my dear friend David Blank’s funeral in London, was paradigm breaking behaviour for me.
It was a Cockney send off in a 700 year old church in Bow and I sobbed as I saw the glass sided carriage containing a coffin with David’s hat on it, pulled by black horses with feather plumes, moving off through the lunchtime traffic.
Getting to that funeral was a pilgrimage that left me emotionally and physically destroyed but it was a necessary and worthwhile journey.
The priest who performed the funeral had known David. They would meet in the churchyard where David would often sit, resting on his cane and meditating. David and the priest would talk on religion, metaphysics, spirituality and belief; both of them open minded and interested in the other’s perspectives.
David and I shared similar views on exploratory, creative animism.This was the grounds for our initial meeting, many years before. I had organised a week long art event, based around Hakim Beys TAZ premise, and David rode his motorbike to Bath on the last night of the fair to check it out and deliver copies of his newly created Oracle magazine.
We hit it off immediately, although my approach was more emotionally intuitive than his (he was incredibly clever, and more prone than I am to qualify and analyse things intellectually, although he also had an artists soul).
I must admit to also finding him incredible attractive. He was slender, with pronounced facial bone structure and an intensity that either repelled and frightened, or attracted.
Another bond we proved to have, was that we were both in recovery from drug addiction, something that could be hard to align with the alternative creative explorations we tended to embark upon.
Over the years we met, exchanged ideas and buzzed off each other.
I talked to him of how I worked with road kill, which inspired him to follow a similar trajectory of exploration although the work he produced was unique and completely different to mine.
Despite my attraction to him, we never slept together. I wasn’t emotionally equipped to deal with a poly amorous live style, so I simply shut down on that level of relating to him which was sometimes very difficult.
I wrote for his magazine and David was the best editor that I ever had.
He wouldn’t simply organise my words but would encourage, question, draw out from me clarifications and elaborations.
The same with my art work. David didn’t simply accept but he probed and explored, and the discussions that came from these examinations, enhanced my work as well I hope, as creating new avenues and perspectives for himself.
Over the years we stayed at each others respective houses, and became friends with respective partners (mine changed frequently, his didn’t).
I backed off from him as he experimented with social drinking, somewhat disastrously, but he managed eventually to work out some equilibrium in his imbibling,with the support of his wonderful wife.
Despite his illness having effectively rendered him housebound for several years, he attended my most recent exhibition in London, and bought a piece from me.
I delivered the sculpture to him and when I arrived in the area he lived in I found myself walking the terrain in which we had shared parts of our life. I’m not sure why I felt the need to do this, as though his COPD was still incapacitating it seemed stable and he was very positive about the future.
We talked about his imminent purchase of an off road mobility scooter, and plans for a new life living outside his beloved London which he felt ready for and excited about.
As always we talked about clothes, another shared passion. A very close friend of his made David bespoke clothing, so I would often find myself examining cloth and cut with him, with us both growing very animated on the matter.
When I left I felt wonderful, as if the connection with my dear friend was reignited.
A week later David was put into a voluntary coma, and when he was revived, he chose to have his breathing mask removed, and to die peacefully.
In many ways this mirrored the way my mother died, so I have an idea what those who were with David during this time, went through.
A journey within a journey.
I miss him.