As people that have been part of my life start to die around me it occurs to me that in a sense one collects people. You gather around you people who make you feel good, or make your life better and richer. With friends and family you do this by enjoying their physical presence, but there’s a whole host of other people you have never met who mean a great deal to you, and who you will likely never meet.
In recent weeks I feel like I have lost 2 very dear friends – Vin Garbutt and Geoffrey Yunupingu. They were both extraordinary singers who filled my heart with joy and wonder and since I first heard them – Vin Garbutt in a folk club in Zaandam in Holland, and Gurrumul at WOMADelaide – I have collected their songs on record and tape and CD, and tried to see them live whenever possible. They were an intrinsic part of my world. They both gave me emotional highs of happiness and wonder. Vin also made me laugh. They made me feel fantastic and I took on the values they represented – dignity, compassion, joy, passion.
My world made sense with Vin and Gurrumul in it. I had sought them out on multiple occasions, and could play their music anytime I wanted. I can still do that, but something deep down has changed. I can no longer see them live. I can no longer imagine them playing live to others. I will no longer read reviews or see film clips of their recent concerts. They now become a memory.
They were part of who I am, or was. I was someone who loved their beautiful singing. I loved the way they looked, the clothes they wore, the way they spoke and carried themselves on stage. They were familiar to me. I had made them part of my psyche; they represented a part of how I viewed the world. They were singers that touched me deep in my soul. They both made me cry regularly.
It seemed a little cruel to take these two remarkable singers so close together – to rid the world of such voices in the space of a few weeks. We have lost two beautiful souls and a great many beautiful sounds.
And as I live on, I realise that bit by bit the people that I have collected; the people I have discovered that both nurture and nourish my soul – the singers, the writers, the speakers, my friends and family – will disappear. Until one day I will too.
In the meantime I either go on living feeling like I’m losing people and things I love, or better, try and continue to live and acknowledge the role they played in creating me, and making me who I am.
If you live to really advanced years this must get harder and harder – to have so many of your light posts disappear so that it’s just you and a few of your favourite things left – so it’s seems that I must collect something new. Find other ways of replacing what Geoffrey and Vin gave me; augment their memories with new songs, new books, new movies, new conversations - to make sure I don’t shrivel under the weight of sadness and disappointment their passing has wrought. Collect, assemble, and welcome new ideas, new experiences, and new people. I’m sure there are worlds I know nothing about…..