I’m headed this morning to play and sing for my friend Duncan’s memorial. Duncan Slade was a huge inspiration to so many who had the privilege of knowing him. He lived a good long life fully immersed in art, music, poetry, the pursuit of truth and beauty. He was a gifted painter, musician, conversationalist, teacher, friend.
I miss him.
The last time I saw Duncan was at the end of this past May. I went to pay him a visit at the nursing home. It had been several months since I’d seen him last and it took him a moment or two to remember me, but once he did, that glimmer of recognition animated his eyes and the corners of his mouth and he began at once to chat with me – asking about my music, and then later, about his plans to get back to his studio to paint and to teach again.
As he spoke, I believe we both knew, but didn’t acknowledge aloud, that these things would never come to pass.
I am no stranger to loss. Being an only child and losing both of my parents is something that has affected me in ways that no amount of living or soul-searching ever could and even after all these years, every day, I continue to mourn their passing (Dad died in November 1998, Mom in January 2007). I don’t mention this to try and garner any sympathy; it is merely an indicator of who I am, where I am at.
Duncan taught me something I’ll never forget, and it was with his paintings.
He went through a phase where he was painting huge oil canvases of teeny tiny little flowers and weeds and blades of grass growing up through the cracks in sidewalks and foundations. The tiniest of things, almost always going unnoticed underfoot. These tiny things were important to him. Because they are important. They speak about the persistence of life. Cement and brick be damned – life will carry on, no matter the obstacle.
Sometimes, I get bogged down by sadness and despair. And I know it’s not just me – it’s part of the human condition. So, whenever I can, I try to remind myself of that beautiful tenacity that Duncan captured in his stunning artwork.
Here he is, ten years ago, at age 85, wowing us all at Norway Open Mic Night:
One thing I know for sure – he thought the world of me, and he let me know each and every time he saw me, right up through our very last encounter.
Such enthusiasm and zest. He was awesome. I want to be more like him.
So, yes, I’m sad, and I know that there will always be a sadness that lives in me and begs expression through prose, songs and lyrics. But I’m also grateful that my time isn’t up yet, that I still have a shot at finding my way up through the cracks.