Thursday, August 02, 2018

19 years of something beautiful - then he died - today is 19 years later

We met &
19 years later 
he died.
19 years later 
is today.

It began when I was working in East London some years ago.

All of the year, and every year for 38 years, 
I remember Simon ……………….

I led a team of about forty youth workers
who worked relationally with street gangs
and the whole community.

The toughest humans I have every met.
Lots of them professional criminals.
I loved it.
Hated it.
Learned more than I ever did.
I was battered.

In August 1980 we had a holiday with the little Sheilas.
Returning to East London I checked in on the club to see if all was well.
Especially the Work Party who came from various parts of the UK for a 'Inner City' experience. 

This was 1980 an era of violence and aggression which I felt
was led by the Thatcher government at that time.
The Mining Industry was decimated - the Steel Industry and
there was much anger in the streets amongst young humans.
Many many unemployed.
That was the year when I first met this group of Young Humans
from outside our tough urban community.
They loved being with us and we enjoyed their laughter and outrageous fun.

I was asked to do a session for visiting WORKPARTY towards the end of their stay.
As usual I did some experiential exercises to open them up so they could be free in expression.
I encouraged them to be 'revealers' not 'concealers'.
To reveal their personality and character - themselves. 

It was a 'Level Five' experience.
There was some beautiful expressions of honesty
and sensitivity as we worked together in that session.
Some great articulation and some great hugs and tears at the end.
When you have never been given an opportunity,
and permission, to level five together - it becomes
a most vivid and wonder-full experience.

After the work party was finished
we began to meet as a group several times each year.
We were/are  'The Level Five Group'
and we still meet after 38 years this month.

Simon Slade was a member from the start.
Him and Bob were inseparable.
Leading the fun and the L5 always.
Other members of the group, both male and female,
journeyed on with their own lives too, professions and relationships.
38 years of relationships - what a journey for us all.
Me too.

Simon had a kidney problem.
Dialysis treatment came along eventually but
in the meantime he met and married Ann.

Moving ahead through the years -
Simon became weak and life with dialysis and sickness took it's toll.
We the L5 group visited him after he was too weak to join us.
I remember visiting him in hospital so many times.
Painful for me - agony for Simon,
Ann and their two small children.

Eventually, in 1999 Simon decided to stop his treatment
and that meant only one outcome.
He chose to die.
He and Ann, talked everything through and planned the funeral
and all the legal processes for his family.

So .........Simon our Level Five Friend was dying - he had decided to come off dialysis
because it was causing so much pain and he knew he was not really living -
nor his family - Ann, Ben aged 5 and Mae under one year old.

The group met with him for the last time.
I remember us all sitting around him as he sat on his sofa.
He had a bucket between his legs to meet the needs of his repeated sickness.
He was sick as he said that he wanted us to carry on meeting and
keep in touch with Ann.
It was painful for us.
But what a lesser pain ......

In1999 I was at Greenbelt alone -
without Joan or the Sheilas.
Joan had broke her leg some time before and she was not ready to walk well.
Greenbelt had moved to an earlier date,
the one and only time we have moved from the August Bank Holiday week-end.

I remember I was walking around Greenbelt that year with Simon on my mind.
He had been one of the original Rolling Magazine team members some 15 years earlier.
We used to rock the festival with games fun music mess and meaning.
We have some great times.

Simon was with me as I walked the late night paths
and grass of the Festival site.
He was with me all during the festival.
The late night big top was one of many venues I visited.
He was in my soul as I entered the big top -
dark - loud -vibe-full.

Bruce Cockburn was on the big-top stage as I walked slowly through the massed attentive crowd.
I walked to the front - kept walking - restless.
And then the music penetrated deep inside.
And I heard the lyrics ..........
He sung these words and they were like a spear through my side .............;

"In Japanese temple -
There was a single orange blossom
At the wrong time of year -
Seemed like a sign -
When I looked again
It was gone"

It reduced me to shudders and tears - this was Simon.
A beautiful creation
A beautiful human
A beautiful orange blossom
And he was gone ..............."

I will never forget that Greenbelt
That concert
That moment
That spiritual moment
That lyrical line

........ and he was gone .................

Joy Ann, the Sheilas, and me
had visited Simon again at his home.
He was too weak to talk.
The day after he died.

Simon Slade died on 2nd August 1999.
That is why today is SO important.
A special day.

Before he died he and Ann arranged for a final photograph
and other Family photographs to be taken.
Also Joan and were invited to the Christening of his daughter Mae
in the family home, a wondrous wider family occasion.
He died before Mae was one years old.
He was 35.

Simon Slade.
Simon Beloved