Wednesday, August 12

AK Souffle: Building happy memories out of sadness

- September 18, 2017


A few days back I went along to a memorial service, a celebration of a life ended and, for all of the people there no doubt, ended far too soon. It was a lively and joyous occasion despite the obvious sadness that we were all feeling, an afternoon filled with beautiful music and touching words, words tinged with both sadness and with humour.

I was there to join in the celebration even though I had known the departed only a short time. A short time maybe but long enough to realise that this man was a very special person, a passionate lover of life and fighter against injustice and a great lover of music and of the choir that he was so much a part of. I listened as his colleagues in the Rainbow Chorus gathered themselves, through their tears, to fill the afternoon with some of the music that he loved.

I listened that afternoon to the people who were most important in his life talking about him, his achievements, his foibles and habits and I came away filled with a sad regret, a regret that I had only met him a few times over the last two years or so.

Funerals and memorials are strange things, they act in a way to assist that thing known as closure. I’m not sure what closure is meant to really achieve. When my father died the last thing I wanted was closure. I wanted him to live on, not to be forgotten and if my grief was something that needed to be closed down then perhaps I would, in time, start to forget him. No, closure is not for me.

A rounded out picture of a rounded man

But through that grief I have been able to channel joy, the precious memories that I hold of dad, his foibles and his habits, good and bad, live on because I have not closed off that memory. I have some of his things around the place, one of his mallets, a beautiful set of wood carving chisels, drawings that he did as a child. They are all part of my every day life and when I look at them they make me smile.

That Sunday afternoon, as I sat and listened to his near ones talking about this precious life lost I realised that the best use of a memorial is to set in time and in hearts a life remembered. The man I am writing about is, not was but is John Kernaghan, a man of passion and integrity and humour and love. Some of this I had measured for myself in those brief meetings with him when we would discuss music and laugh about life. Now I have a fuller picture of the man, the work that he did, his achievements, his family and his childhood. It’s a rounded out picture of a rounded man and I thank his partner and his family and friends for the opportunity to share in their celebration.

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