Now you really are a legend, never to be forgotten!
Thank you for spending time with me, Tristan, I’m forever grateful for the love, never-ending sense of pride and joy you brought and left with me. You were the greatest adventurer from an early age; climbing every tree just one branch too far with immense glee; skipping off the climbing frame at nursery, landing with a crash; triking off, wearing just a fireman’s helmet to the end of the road in search of ladybirds. Life was never boring with you around – I was certainly kept on my toes as a parent. And it continued with biking and skateboarding accidents – you wearing every scar like a badge of honour, taking great delight in going through them all in detail to wind me up.
But you also brought the sunshine into every room you ever went into, right from the very first moments of your life. A smile, a hug or a pat on the back, coupled with a rare ability to listen so that people of any age felt better, meant that you touched more hearts than you ever knew. Your sense of fairness was always acute and we spent many an evening discussing how to bring more equality into the world. And then there’s the writing and the music – you loved music right from the start, dancing even in your cot (but only to good beats); going on to practise conducting ‘Wagner’ in Granddad’s den and later on using your wordsmith-skills to beat down any kind of competition (except maybe from your brother, where you both met your match in your mother’s view and she knows best), creating rhythms and describing the world in a way that’ll stay around me a long time.
Growing up, Tristan, you were always ‘loving life’. And that’s what you’ve asked me to do now, together with asking me to make sure I let everyone else around you know, they must do the same.
So, in your honour, I promise to look after myself the best I can and I ask that all of you here today do the same; join me in eating well, sleeping when needed, getting plenty of fresh air, having lots of laughs and loving life; chilling out and remembering that we are fine exactly as we are (You would by now have told me to ‘Shut up, muzzazit, you are beep beep beep embarrassing’, with a wonky smile, but, guess what: ‘peeesh’, you can’t stop me now);
You asked us all to have a good life and I’m now asking each and every person here today to heed this --- as I know that your mischievous, life-loving, caring, huge heart lives on in each one of us and I need to know that your love remains strong here among us.
Sorry Dubery – I know that was soppy, but hey, so true; and TP; have fun yourself, will you! ‘Love ya’, from your Mumintroll
Hello all. I’m not the first to say that this service is intended principally as a celebration of Tristan’s life. It’s worth reiterating, though, because despite perhaps sometimes coming across as a cliché, the statement that a funeral should be a celebration is an appropriate one. A person’s life is more important than their death; the things they did, and accomplished and valued, and the reasons for which they were valued by others are more worth remembering than the fact they died, and in Tristan, we have a person who takes this principle to an extreme.
I’m paying service not to the grief which everyone in this room shares in to some degree but instead to cold, hard fact when I say that I think Tristan possessed a faculty for friendship so heightened that it bordered on genius. Look around you: this room is gravid, bursting with those who loved him, all attending an occasion which, essentially, was made open to family and friends. Godparents accounted for, there are eight family members here – that the rest of you are drawn from that latter bracket goes some way towards proving my point. It’s easy to make friends. All you require is the merest modicum of social fluency and tact – hell, even I can do it, a guy who’ll spend hours drowning you in conversation about prehistoric marine lizards; an open invitation, by the way, so be warned – but to be such a crucial and important, so valued and joyful and powerful a friend to so many, now that’s remarkable. It requires you to do more than simply engage people in the moment or grab their attention or interest in an incidental way. You have to feel some basic, primal obligation to provide others with meaningful human interaction, to offer your moments to them so that their lows can be sweetened and eroded, and their highs amplified. This impulse drove Tristan, it bled its influence into his, and your, lives, manifesting itself in terms of what the Ancient Greeks would have called ‘philia’ – a love for the loyalty and company and preciousness of friendship in all its forms, a love which enriched our family relationships and the communities of which he was part. I’d go so far, also, as to say that he administered into his attitudes towards his fellow men and women a fair dose of ‘agape’, that kind of effortlessly unconditional acceptance of others which is so beautiful and rare that there exists an entire academic field, theodicy, as an attempt prove the monotheistic God capable of it despite the imperfection and frequent cruelty of his supposed creation. Again, I don’t feel I’m being hyperbolic in saying this about my brother and, from the looks on your faces, I don’t think you do either.
I hope that none of you feel that I’m being presumptuous in framing the tone of your friendships with Tristan. They, and the memories they generated, are yours far more than they are mine, the vague exposure that I got to them through your endless visits to our house permitting me far fewer insights than I would have hoped, I having been the sort of bizarre, aloof older brother who wraps himself up in his own mind more than the affairs of a sibling’s friendship groups. I was the sort of person who’ll, in my uppity way, sidestep the difficult social and personal questions of adolescence and young adulthood against which Tristan would always take a stand with you all, on the front line, if and when they dared to become stupid enough to upset a friend of his, his affection and value for you never wavering – you’d earned that simply by being a fellow human being. These were the threads through which his life was spun, and they’ve bequeathed to us a library of wonderfully important memories in which we all have our share. Now script within our heads, these memories would easily fill a cavern’s worth of bookcases – I use the word ‘library’ very deliberately here.
Now here’s the thing. Depression isn’t just an illness, a very physical illness whose viscerality is hidden away within the impossible complexities of the human brain – it’s also theft. It steals from you your most personal property, that which you never think you’ll lose: the coherence of your self. The nuances of your character, your ability to gain returns from your passions are taken from you and replaced with a cocktail of the lowest and sourest emotions that can stain human experience. And yet there’s a very wry, Tristan-y smile buried amongst those features, those curls of hair, still so golden with life and sunlight, which serves these circumstances perfectly. We’re dealing here with a foul hooligan of a disease that tramples ham-fistedly on love and subtlety, and what weapon would we happen to have in our arsenals but a library – a library of memories, which, like all libraries, arms us with truth. And so, whilst the hooligan has perpetrated its theft, we stand, together, starkly blocking its passage to the getaway car, our arms equipped with our library of truth about Tristan, a truth which we will take to our graves. It’s a truth which tells us that the love and friendship which Tristan brought into our lives and showed us how to feel is thoroughly inextinguishable and unstealable, that this boy who was convinced by his illness to think himself an unloveable, worthless failure of a person, was in fact anything but. Thus, in remembering him, we’re not only doing what he would have wished and dwelling on the good times, we’re also delivering a very violent knee in the groin to his illness, kicking it forcefully in the balls, shredding its efforts and casting them on the floor with a winning flourish - why did it even bother? The victory is his, even if he can’t know it - the library of love that Tristan leaves for us is far too strong for such a stupid and unworthy assailant.
The Library of Tristan Powell: spitting on depression, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Visit it often – there’s a branch within your head, you know; read its books rabidly, over and over. You know you want to. Do this, and that wry, peaceful, kind smile will only get more fitting, and more appropriate.