Sunday, August 29, 2021

An Ukulele Epitaph for Someone Not Yet Gone (but nearly)

Christmas 2011, Maitland.
Chris Morley is being shown the door.  

And this, friends, is the 'problem' with community. 

For despite all their frailties and foibles, you get to hang out with people; you get to know them. And then they die, and you miss them.

You miss their wordiness, or their caustic view of the world. Or you miss their compassion and loving heart. You miss a whole swathe of emotions, behaviours and tics that cleave them to you, and they colour you and your life. 

All of this because, together, you decided to act, to participate in some common purpose. Not because you necessarily liked them, or loved them, or that they are family or lovers - they are not your obligatories. Rather, they are part of a world that you have both decided to create. 

Chris played ukulele too loud. His rhythm would swamp others, and not necessarily in a good way. His songs and poems were deep - deeper, and longer than many had the time for. 

I didn’t know Chris all that well, but from what I did hear, he was a good human being focussed on social justice. I know he was a poet. A musician. A songwriter. A think he was a good leftie, and possibly some sort of anarchistic compassionate, generous church going Christian. I think I also heard he was handy with a hammer and screwdriver, with a renovator’s mindset. In one way he was an enigma to me, a person who appeared, and then would not be seen for a year or two, then return, covered in plaster dust and paint. He apparently was older than his dyed hair belied. (Well, someone once whispered to me their suspicions). 

Not everyone could see the way that Chris saw things. But I felt I did. He was my sort of guy, a complex, passionate, creative, intelligent, skittish and skilled oddball. I understood and appreciated his depth of compassion and inquiry, but at times I didn’t appreciate the time that some of his soliloquies took. 
Christmas 2011 - what a surly looking bastard

I’m using the past tense here, but you’re not gone yet, are you Chris? From what I hear on the interwebs, it sounds as though your passing is loving and peaceful. With a lover like Nicola, it surely will be. 

Thank you so much for the colour you brought to the outer circles of my world, and to many many others in our little ukulele world here in Newcastle. I hope you are around long enough, and with enough presence of mind, to appreciate my small piece of doggerel. I hope I haven't kept you too long. For at times I tend to be a little too much like you.

Love to you Chris. Loved your singing and passion.

Mark.

Chris at Danielle Scott's farewell 2018

Postscript
Nicola found the above video of Chris singing at Ukestra 4 years ago.  Their daughter then asked Chris to reprise it. He's still got it. Here's Chris singing Heavy Heart in August 2021, off by heart, with not a lot of energy, but full of passion.


Chris and Nicola's Facebook post from 29 August 2021

Dear friends of Chris, this is his wife Nicola. You may or may not know that Chris has been living with metastatic pancreatic cancer for the last 18 months. Unfortunately all the treatments have stopped working and now the cancer will run its course. Chris is fairly comfortable at home with his loving family, good pain killers and daily support from the palliative care team. I was thinking that he might get some pleasure from hearing some stories, memories or poems from friends (not soppy!!). You can send to me and I will read to Chris. Take care, stay safe. Love from Chris and Nicola.

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