A Year On

 JpegSarah Lundberg

It has been a year today (July 25th 2014) since Sarah Lundberg ended her own life. Distressingly there has still not been an inquest, and so the full details of what happened on that day have not emerged. On a more positive note several memorial services are occurring today, some of whom I have been invited to. I decided not to attend, basically because I prefer to remember her in my own way, as I have by habit done with other friends and loved ones I have lost through the years. Friends have warned me repeatedly about the necessity of taking it easy, especially today. To be frank, I am not worried. These last weeks have been particularly difficult, and I know I have not been myself (apologies to loved ones and friends for being so difficult and thanks for your patience). I expected it, accept it and know that like all things, it will pass. Patience and taking a broad perspective on things is one of the few things learned from living past one half of a century, at least for me.

When someone close to you completes suicide, there is a sense of feeling haunted, a sense that the tremendous potential of that person’s life has not been achieved, and as such their presence lingers. I know I have felt it. It’s as though one will be forever left at that moment of loss, and to move past it seems impossible. You do move past it. You really do learn how to move on and you learn how to forgive the past. But you also get flashbacks, images, at the most unexpected moments, a sense of overwhelming sadness suffusing the happiest of times, and a level of anger and resentment at what happened that surprised me.

And then there are questions. The inevitable unanswerable questions as to why, what motivated such a terrible act of self-destruction is also something that haunts one. And despite all the talking and speculation and reading aside, it’s simply the wrong question. Suicide of someone close to you is a situation where no actual answers will ever take away either the shock and pain of what happened that day 365 days ago. The truth, and I knew Sarah better than anyone, is that she was one of the most malice free people I ever knew. You knew where you stood with her, than though she had many faults as we all do, she knew how to never hold a grudge. If she were here now she would want me to move on. And this is what I do every day, and though its immensely difficult, I can feel my old self returning.

I am not a religious person. I was once upon a time. But that was a long, long time ago now. If I were religious, I would probably agree with a friend who commented that he now knows Sarah is in a better place. She struggled against nearly impossible odds. She achieved so much and yet I often think had she lived there was so much more for her to do. I often imagine what she would have done had she lived, the new writers she would have published, the new books she would have written, the dozen or so Bob Dylan concerts she would have gone to, the animals she would have rescued, the countless kindnesses she would have given to so any people. She had a huge heart.Photo0058

The second picture I have chosen for this blog post is probably an odd one for such a sad occasion. I saw it as I was packing stuff away and immediately remembered the exact location, one of those moments of sensory immersion, almost Proustian in its intensity. For some reason I don’t really care about right now, I thought a picture of us doing something as pedestrian as shopping seemed right, as so much of our life together wasn’t taken up with big books and literary readings, but was taken up with doing little things. I remember this day back in the nineties. This photo was snapped by a friend as we came out of Tesco’s. I remember I was worried about our dogs being left alone at home and if I had left my office door open and if my pages and stuff were okay. I needn’t have worried. For once our pets were well-behaved. Everything was fine.

Annus Horribilis

ANNUS HORRIBLIS

sarahlundberg2014 is a year I will very gladly put behind me. It was without question the worst year of my life. Sarah Lundberg (1968-2014) died under the most tragic and awful circumstances and I and so many others are still reeling from the shock of her death which was so unexpected and so traumatic. There is a strong argument that this is the kind of experience that one does not so much recover from, but is something one learns to live with. I think there are arguments on both sides for and against someone recovering from a trauma like this, but for the most part, right now, it is simply too early to say. I think its very much down to the individual. Right now I still hear her voice and her comments and her jokes in my mind. Sarah had a rather dry sense of humour, a kind of understated wit that could be devastatingly funny. I still see her sometimes in crowds, or think I see her, which is a common experience of the bereaved known as ‘completion’ in which the mind ‘completes’ a picture or an image from residua from the memory in order to fulfill a desire. I hear music she liked or loved and remember concerts we attended. I find it hard to watch television shows we both liked. I have a library of thousands of her books and equally thousands of pages of her writing are on hard disks, folders and pages all over the house. I also have a formidable selection of cuddly teddy bears, each of whom have a name, a specific personality and a lengthy back story. What a child’s author she would have made! These, and countless notebooks, still unread, are in our house. I still think of the many conversations we had over our two decades together. I wish, like so many others, that she was still here with us, still doing all the things she used do, still filled with the idealisms that were so uniquely hers and that she pursued with so much passion and so much love. She left much undone, and one wonders what else she might have achieved were she still with us. I miss her terribly. I know how many others miss her too and loved her so much. Thanks to everyone who helped at a time I was simply too shattered to do anything, who helped with re housing pets, who made arrangements, and more than anything were friends and support during the aforementioned annus horribilis. Now that Christmas approaches we should take gentle care of ourselves and each other. Sarah was above all a very loving and forgiving person. She was, despite her highly logical argumentative personality, was devoid of bitterness and never knew how to hate. I think it was because of her utter straightforwardness. It meant one always knew where one stood with her. I for the most part loathe Christmas as a dull time of meaningless excess. I on the other hand do like how this is a time of peace, healing and renewal. Sarah would have wanted that. I am sure of it.

(Image by Antonio Joachim)

Contains adult themes and may be offensive

Or 

HOW CYBERBULLIES WILL REINCARNATE AS BACTERIUM

I went off Facebook for a several months – mainly because of the extraordinary invective I was receiving from certain quarters after the death of Sarah Lundberg. The majority, indeed most of the communications were heartfelt condolences, and will remain with me as a comfort for my life. But there were others who made being on Facebook dreadful. Even the experience of being online was somewhat fraught for me. One was afraid of some nasty remark being lobbed at one from some quarter or other. To be honest, Facebook is an entity I have very mixed feelings about. I find it hard to decide whether it is the best or worst of things. However I have friends there, and I miss them when I am not on Facebook. However my point is the experience of  cyberbullying  was shocking. The term seems to be mainly used for teens, but it really extends to everyone. Anyone can be bullied online. For myself, when it happened, sometimes I could not believe what I was reading. Most of it is unrepeatable here. Moreover, at the time, it was something I could not really deal with. I was simply too raw, too confused and too sad about the death of someone I had spent much of my adult life with. Added to that there was the sadness associated with the fact we had been separated for about eight months when she took her own life. I have no agenda here to add to the catalogue of already well recorded statistics around the painful effects of what is called cyberbullying but I do note that the Law Reform Commission, according to the Irish Times today, has published an issues paper asking for a wide ranging  series of contributions from as wide a demographic as possible on cyberbullying –  “…the posting of private, false, humiliating, shameful or otherwise harmful content, notably through social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, without the consent of the subject…”

It (the commission) goes on to say that the effects of cyberbullying is particularly insidious. this is because word spreads online at the speed of light. So, whatever a particular keyboard hero is out there posting unpleasantries, venting their own ill considered insecurities and distorted view of reality online, it can be worldwide in minutes. In the hands of the wrong person, this can be a bad thing indeed. The times article quotes once more from the LRC position paper that the idea behind the submission is to widen the scope of Section 10 of the 1997 non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act to include cyber bullying. I encourage everyone who reads through this blog post to contribute their views on this one. There’s a billion people on Facebook alone. And everyone pretty much has email.

Oh, and if it happens to you:

*Block The Person  *Keep the Message/s *Report the bully /ies

The paper is available at lawreform.ie

And here is the link to the Irish Times Article

Sarah Lundberg 1968-2014

image

Sarah Lundberg: writer, historian, animal rights activist, humanitarian, feminist, vegetarian, environmentalist, archivist,  publisher, animal rescuer, talker extraordinaire – was my spouse for twenty years, my friend for twenty four years and my lover for twenty two years.

Sarah Sunflower Lundberg (born Brenda – she changed her name) was known primarily as the founder of the small press Seven Towers, as well as being the agent for many poets and writers and singers, including myself. She published writers such as Ross Hattaway, Noel O Briain, Eamonn Lynskey, Raven, Quincy R Lehr, Estate of Ray Pospisil,  Eamon Carr, John Liam Shea, republished John D. Sheridan’s Paradise Alley, as well as literally hundreds of other writers, artists, graphic designers, cartoonists. She also agented other books, for instance Steve Conway’s excellent memoir of his time on radio Caroline Shiprocked. So many writers got their very first real publication with a real press thanks to her. Books suffused her life. I met her when she was working in Dublin public library and we talked books from there on. She went to extreme lengths to promote the writers she believed in. I remember her walking up to Bob Dylan’s representation at a concert and giving them a copy of one of my novels and extracting a promise from them that Bob actually get the book. It was an extraordinary moment I will never forget.

Sarah also promoted the arts fearlessly and with great energy. She ran hundreds of readings, open mics, occasional festivals, liaised with other presses to ensure their authors got a fair reading of their work, happily collaborated with other presses, and set up a transatlantic open mic between New York and Dublin, which was the very first of its kind. The Last Wednesday open Mic, which migrated from one location after another was to the best of my knowledge the longest running open mic in Ireland, was a hugely popular event and attracted poets and writers from all corners of the Earth. I recall one hilarious night when a New York rapper turned up very stoned just as the event was going to close and recited a very fine poem about the birth of his daughter. I recall too the look of fear in his eyes as he stood alone in the center of that little stage downstairs in the Box in the Twisted Pepper, Abbey Street and the crowd respectfully silently attentively listened to him and he knew here were a group of serious writers who really would pay attention to his every word. He needn’t have worried. The poem was very moving and very good.

In later years Sarah’s Interests moved into local history and historical research (we always shared a passion for history and our home was filled with history books). Around the time of her death she was involved in a large project which she sadly never finished. She was an excellent writer of prose. Her style was crystal clear, unadorned, and leaned towards the gentle understatement of fact rather than any ostentatious dramatic effect. She was interviewed occasionally on local and national radio stations on historical subjects that she was researching and one of the more telling aspects of her interviews was her adherence to fact, her awareness of the human element in any story, and her humour in seeing the contradictory and ironic aspects of human actions and motivations. She never wasted time on padding her conversations with empty chatter and though she could talk endlessly, she usually had something to say. I always had a hard time convincing her she had done well in such interviews, because she was always so nervous giving them. She had a prodigious memory, an intimidating recall of fact, and a grasp of language’s many subtleties that made arguing with her something of an act of futility. Despite her many many gifts, Sarah was a shy self deprecating individual, an introvert who loved the world of books and ideas more than any kind of public arena. She hated cameras, loathed publicity, and could be seen at events with her head down and her knees crossed, wearing a jumper and jeans, possibly knitting something, and listening silently to whoever was performing their work. Though she may have given the impression she was somewhat distracted, she never missed a thing about what was going on at any event. She was simply one of the cleverest people I ever knew.

slundberg3950739216_cb657cfc65_z

In losing Sarah we have lost a great figure in the Irish Arts scene, a departure largely unacknowledged by Government bodies or official arts organizations in Ireland, despite the outpouring of shock and grief at her death by the artistic community. One can only imagine what other great things might have come from Sarah had she remained with us, both in her own writing and in her contribution to the careers of other artists and writers.

Sarah tragically ended her own life on 25th July 2014 in the early afternoon. Sarah and I separated around August- early September 2013 and I had no contact whatever with her since that time, except for Marriage Mediation, which we never completed. For anyone who has been through it, Mediation mainly involved with money and property matters and little else. She did not return my calls or messages to my great distress. This tragically was not the first, or indeed the second time Sarah had made an attempt on her own life, as she carried the effects of being raped with her throughout her life. Countless friends and loved ones and admirers reached out to her and cared for her and loved her and supported her, but the devastating effects of all that she had suffered became too much.

Though our marriage had ended, our love never did and never will. Though she had gone through so much, she achieved so very much. She will be missed, terribly, by friends and loved ones.  One could never forget Sarah Sunflower Lundberg. We shall not see her like again.

                   Ah! Sunflower

Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done.

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.

by William Blake