The Ferryman

Journal of Endings

Those That The Gods Love Die Young


Strange to go to the funeral of a young girl called July. The same name as my own daughter, also known as Julie. Strange as I felt in some senses that I knew equally little about either of these two young women; even stranger that after July’s commemoration, I felt I knew more about the young woman who was not my daughter than I knew about my own daughter: closer to the dead than to the living.

Feelings slipping through my fingers as I listened to the celebrations of July’s life. A dislocation: wondering how I would experience my own daughter’s funeral. Would I know her any better when she was dead? Would I cast my eye around the gathered sea of faces I barely knew, and listen to words that made little sense? July as a strange psychic double of my Julie; the life of one dead superimposed on the life of my own living flesh.

Then shaken out of my musing on July: words of love for July emanated from the mouths of the family and close ones, July took on a mythic form.

July was the third child of Steve and Jura Mattison who long long ago had been my neighbours, living across from our house. They were neighbours whom I did not know very well. For the short period of time, a couple of years no more, during which they lived opposite us, I had fled our home and was living separately from Martha, in a room rented from friends. For some of that time I was in a relationship and living with my girlfriend. Trying to work out what to do with my life, how to order relationships out of my emotional chaos. When Ben, Martha and my son, was four years old, I had quit my job as a lecturer at Newcastle Polytechnic and was hazarding forwards hopelessly as a would–be film maker. In this time of my absence both Ben and Martha came to know the Mattisons. I understood they were very supportive of Ben, who was having some problems coping with his parent’s separation, though I never abandoned Ben, continued to see him almost every day, and looked after him over week-ends: it was a congenial relationship.

I never knew the Mattisons as neighbours. I never even visited their house. But I was aware of them as kind people. Later from time to time I crossed Steve and Jura’s path, but only rarely - most often when they visited Ben in London, and recently at Ben’s wedding to Susan. They were always warm towards me; the sort of people who enjoyed life. I certainly never met July, though she has the same name as my own daughter albeit with a slightly different spelling, July as opposed to Julie.

So I was suddenly confronted by July in her death. An invitation to her funeral. She was 24 years old when she died. Born sometime after 17 April 1994. Six years old at the Millennium. All I had been told was that she had been killed in Mexico whilst she was on a cycling holiday with her parents - knocked off her bicycle by a truck.

We drove with Ben, Susan and his children to the celebration of her life - people don’t do funerals these days. Winsham House was an extraordinary 16th century house and garden very close to to the inner suburb where the Mattisons family lived. The event had attracted a huge number of people, well over 100. Arriving late we were ushered into the overflow room where the proceedings were relayed from the main hall via a PA.

The first thing that was explained to us was that the accident had been an inexplicable event.

My impression, though the description given was sparse, was that no one had seen the accident (I can’t be sure of this). July had been cycling with her parents and boy friend Carl. The account given was that somehow bizarrely, for no apparent reason, July’s bicycle had veered - started, jolted, flipped or kicked, out into the road at the exact time a truck was overtaking her. The truck hit her and she was hurled through the air - killed instantly; instantly not alive. That was all that was told. Perhaps all that is known. And the aftermath? It seemed to me the aftermath had been a calmness. The calm after the storm. No one was angry, no anger. For today, unusual. Neither Steve, Jura or Carl attacked blamed or held responsible the driver of the truck. With grace it was accepted as that which had happened, that which had come to pass, that which was an accident. A cruel playing out of chance. A random throw of the dice.

Jura told that when they came to July’s body, despite the violence with which she had been hit, she had been perfectly preserved. There was no blood, her body lay lifeless but with no sign of being crumpled broken or smashed. Just dead. There on the ground.

The information provided may have been sparse, perhaps some things omitted. However the feeling I got, and nothing I heard corrected this feeling, was that this loss of July was so great, a loss of such magnitude, a hole punched through the stuff of life so large, that blame was not just irrelevant - rather it was just not possible as a psychic response. Her death was a sacred moment and violation of this moment would have broken her bond to life.

Her loss, from its actual moment is and was an absolute. The tear, a ripping open of the cosmos that no mortal recourse of retribution, justice rage, could repair. But also a moment of possibility, as if there could be nothing ‘after her not living’, that made any further sense, other than her fragile shadow extending; reaching out beyond death. Her no longer being alive, became a mythic reality. She had to be honoured mythically; all who were close to the event intuitively knew that the moment was precious and could only be held by the integrity of their response, the integrity of their actions. A type of dying.

As myth, her death became necessary; in ways that the living had to honour, probe, understand; but not dispute, provoke, challenge. The myth had to be absorbed, assimilated, honoured in the steam of life. She had been claimed by forces other than those of man, and to fight her death would be to drag her back into the realm of the human and destroy her.

And this July, this young woman had had a remarkable life, having an impact, making impressions on those whom she had touched. Life led in an intensity of being and doing.

Almost life as a young goddess. She seems to have had an impeccable path from early childhood to womanhood. From an unconventional girl of 6, through to college, university and travel, she lived very much on her own terms making her own decisions, almost always on her bike. Drawn to Mexico by her Spanish studies and perhaps as the place where her parents met, she taught English, bike maintenance and repair and helped set up a women’s centre. She also met Carl with whom she fell in love. Before settling down with him, she cycled solo around Mexico and across the USA. And then, at that moment of engagement with Carl, Steve and Jura flew out to Mexico to see them and together, all go on a cycling holiday.

The way she lived, July made a vital pact with life. Not in a conscious way, but every act performed with the vitality of the breath. Life as a doing and a being. Life a marriage of intensity.

Those that the gods love die young.

As if the intensity of her bond with living being of such an order of magnitude that it had exploded off the scale to which earthlings are confined.

It was never explained how the accident happened. How July was alive and then in the path of the truck, hurled through the air. There was no blood. Her body perfect. The body of a mortal whom the gods had taken back as one of their own.

At the commemoration I never addressed Carl, too shy, not having ever met July anything I might said would have been formulaic. Carl was a huge bearded man, who would have towered over July physically but psychically probably been in her shadow. I could understand why July had chosen him. As Jung remarks about the nature of female relations, their bond would have been an act of completion.

The possibility that there should be some form of completion with my own daughter Julie, evades me. And the thought is that it will perhaps always elude me. Even as life calls me and her separately, as mortals, we will never know each other except perhaps in death.

Adrin Neatrour, April 2018

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