Since hearing about a dear neighbour’s death, I’ve felt very sad and upset, I don’t know if I can express why but I’m willing to give it a go as in his passing we loose much more than the amazing person he was.
He was a fine man; kind, passionate, hard-working, incredibly knowledgable, patient, and fun-loving among a host of other qualities and his passing will I’m sure touch many lives around the world.
He tirelessly worked away on projects and plans and I never heard him complain about the illness he suffered. He dug ditches, cleaned out hen houses and chopped logs despite failing health. He did not give up or in.
What I really want to share is how this man touched my life, for his death represents a huge loss, not only to all those who loved him, but for us all, you me, everyone, for he represented the best of what our elders are.
My children and I took him a crippled bird, insect larvae we found in the stream, leaves from plants we didn’t know, and he knew. I felt like he knew everything there was to know about plants and trees and animals and insects.
He planted acorns in his garden so new tress could be planted where the Big Oak blew down in the storm, and we were going to replant them together. I don’t know now if they were planted I hope so, and if not maybe I can when I get home, but he’s not here now to tell me what to do and how to take care of them.
He’s not here to take care of many things and we will all miss that.
My grief feels out of proportion but I see it’s coupled with the loss of my father, and of all the elders.
Our western globalised consumer society values youth and celebrity. It thrives on the “next, latest thing”, and throws aside wisdom and hard-won experience in favour of the latest thrill.
Peter understood about the damage being done, the importance of the trees and bees, the need for change. We had many wonderful conversations standing in his chicken pen, or sitting by his fire with tea and cake, homemade, by Jessie his lovely wife of 60 plus years.
I felt safe around him, here was someone I could go to when I didn’t know or understand something about how to garden and grow stuff. Here was the man who turned up at the neighbors Christmas party with guitar in hand and had us all singing along. Here is a man who understood how to live lightly in the earth, how to care, to share and to be part of a community.
I know I do not do him justice and fear my inadequacy may upset, but I feel so deeply; he represents a greater loss, one which is going on every day, every time an elder passes and we have not listened, have not learned, have not honored that life time served and spent.
I can’t go back and fill in all the times I was “too tired” to go and seek advice, too busy to make that call, too distracted or numbed out to be bothered, and I feel sore about that. I grieve for all that is lost and gone not only from my life but from all of our lives.
I pray that I will learn from this, that we will all now listen to our elders, to pay attention to what they know, learn what they have to teach us.
Everything that is new is not always better and everything old was not always better but if we can take the time to look for the best of both we might build a better world, one where people like Peter can be proud of us and what we do and what we leave for our future generations.