For Anthony and Neil and Lizzie and Amanda and Me

So, for those of you who’ve been hanging around here for a long time, you’ll know that I’m quite a fan of Neil Gaiman and his wife, Amanda Palmer.

Both of them live their lives in the public sphere a fair amount, using social media to create a network of fans and friends who support the creative work they do. I admire this art/life mix enormously and follow them both on Twitter and through their blogs.

Amanda Palmer has a friend called Anthony. More than a friend actually: a father figure, a rock, an inspiration who has been in her life for over thirty years.

A few years ago Anthony was diagnosed with leukaemia.  His experiences with his illness, his remission and the return of that illness, have been shared by Amanda and Neil from time to time.

It has been rather beautiful in an odd way.

Here’s what Neil wrote today.

Now Anthony is dying, and Neil and Amanda, along with Anthony’s other friends and family are saying their goodbyes.  Earlier, Amanda tweeted about how strange it was to be heavily pregnant and creating a new life whilst sat alongside someone who is about to leave their life behind.

She talked about the twilight world of this liminal state, between living and dying, and how strange a place it is to exist.

I know this feeling. I know it so well. I can feel the shape of it in me, rising to meet her words, even typing them now.

My aunt, you see; my dearly beloved aunt had leukaemia and was leaving us, just as Tilly was coming into the world, sixteen years ago.

I couldn’t be there to say my goodbyes as I was in hospital myself, but I know exactly how it feels to be walking that border between one state and another, and it is a bittersweet thing to be living that experience again through someone else’s sharing.

For me though, this is what art does, whether it be painting, or music, or writing or dance, whatever. If someone else can communicate to you something that allows you to connect, as E.M. Forster so elegantly put it, even if only for a moment, with the rhythms of the world and the lives in it, then it has done its job magnificently. These are the moments that make us human. These are the moments that make us humane.

These are the moments that show us love at work.

I tweeted earlier that there is a sad magic in these in between spaces of existence.

Always, always in order to create things; new life, wisdom, peace, release, freedom from our failing bodies, whatever it is, we have to let go of things that no longer serve us, and all of those things we let go of are a death in their own way, a practice for that final release. Grief and joy go hand in glove in these spaces and sometimes it can be so hard to distinguish between them.

Borderlands can be bitterly lonely places, mostly for those of us who only patrol them and wait for others to cross, one way or another.

If something someone has written, or shared can help you feel less alone, more connected, more tethered to existence, this can only be a good thing.

So to Anthony I wish you god speed and freedom from pain. To Amanda and Neil I wish you peace and joy and the sharply healthy sorrow that comes with knowing and losing the best of men, and to all three of you I thank you for allowing me to connect one more time.

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