This month would’ve been my friend Jimmy’s birthday. Jimmy spent his life helping people. He was a hub of energy and generosity and his friends spun around him like satellites, reflecting and repaying his support by thriving under his guidance, while he basked in their glow.
By choice, he died alone and his funeral was a beautiful service with very thoughtful readings, and as testament to his generosity the crematorium was packed to overflowing. People from all walks of life filled the seats and aisles, spilled into the foyer, and outside to the car park.
Back in 1971 I was sitting on the grass in Bournemouth Pleasure Gardens, considering my options. My feet were bare and I can still remember how warm the grass felt between my toes. I’d spent the afternoon getting stoned with my hippy friends, listening to Neil Young’s new album ‘After the Goldrush’, on an ancient mono record player in someone’s bedsit, where the air was heavy with the smell of patchouli oil and joss sticks. Cody, who was American and doing a Foundation Year at the local Art College strummed along on guitar. He looked a lot like James Taylor and I fancied the pants off him, but he saved his crooning for Michelle and I couldn’t compete with her Joni Mitchell blondness.
It was my Ethereal Phase and I was wearing a long black silk skirt with silver stars, and a peach satin blouse with Guinevere sleeves that dipped down to my knees. Jimmy sat down on the grass beside me and we smiled. He admired my skirt, and in that blissed-out way you can’t stop babbling when you’re stoned, I told him how I’d printed it myself with a potato cut into star shape, and dipped in shoe dye to get the silver colour. We carried on talking, he rolled more joints and we carried on talking more. He told me he’d been in the London cast of the musical Hair, but the musical director said he couldn’t work alongside people with the star-sign Leo, so he let Jimmy go. He was heartbroken. We talked about everything and nothing until it got dark.
Apart from two major tiffs (one his fault, one mine) we didn’t stop talking for the next forty-four years. We shared pivotal times as we changed styles and persona. We morphed from hippies to punk, dressing in outfits from Malcolm Mclaren’s famous boutique in London’s Kings Road. We became disco divas and went clubbing; invariably fancying the same men. We saw iconic rock bands play live, and Ella Fitzgerald accompanied on the piano by Count Basie. We shared the heartache of our love lives, worked together selling antiques, and were beside eachother when plans and marriages collapsed, and when parents died. We shared more than half a lifetime.
Somehow without any of us noticing, Jimmy’s resources drained. He was unable to replenish, revitalise and reconnect his amazing energy, and without giving, he felt he couldn’t continue living. With careful planning he took his own life; on a cold February morning he walked a long way across the heathland to a lone tree where he hung himself. I know he wouldn’t have thought of me, of us, any more than he could’ve thought of any of the people who mourned at his funeral because that would have been too painful, and he had something to do that morning which required single-minded determination. And courage.
So, take time today. Take however much time you need to be kind, gentle and nurturing to yourself. Take time to be selfish and remember that by always putting others first, you are teaching them to put you last. Do all the things that make you feel good, feel alive and replenished. Remember you are loved by others and remember to love yourself because you are all you have.
And remember to Let the Sun Shine In, especially when the clouds feel feel like they will never lift.