Monday, June 14, 2021

A surprising thing

People may think that after 20 months on this grief journey, there wouldn’t be much that surprises me anymore, but, actually, there are plenty. People have an amazing capacity for kindness and support, and today I saw another example of that, one that was both unexpected and also the most unusual.

I’ve known writer Matt Burlingame for many, many years now, and he’s one of the nicest and kindest people I’ve met through podcasting. Nigel heard me talk about him, and finally met Matt through Pride 48. These overlapping circles have now become complete: Matt has included Nigel in the Dedications page of his new gay romance, Last Romance (that page is the image in this post). The Kindle edition of the book will be released on July 1. This act of remembrance really touched me.

When Matt first shared the image above with me, I cried when I saw Nigel’s name. It wasn’t long or loud, but it was enough to make Leo look up at me to see what was going on. The thing is, Nigel read a lot of gay romance novels, beginning many years ago. He began with Kindle editions, then, later, he switched to audiobooks from Audible. I told Nigel he should read some of Matt’s books, but I have no idea whether he ever did. Regardless, he would have been touched to be remembered—I can see him with that little smile he’d get when he was pleased about something, but didn’t want to look pleased about it. He was always intensely modest. But I also know he’d be happy that this made me smile—and remember him, too.

I think it’s awesome whenever people remember those we’ve lost. There’s a common myth, I think—one I’ve talked about before—that grieving people don’t want people to talk about the lost loved one, but I’ve never met anyone for whom that’s actually true. If anything, they want the opposite: They definitely want their loved one’s name to be spoken, to hear happy memories and funny stories, especially things they may not have heard before. I certainly want to hear Nigel talked about, for him to be remembered.

There’s a quote that’s attributed to anonymous artist Banksy: “They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” I have no idea whether he actually said that, and there are other versions around, along with an anonymous version from a different angle: “He who is remembered, never truly dies”.

The point here is that as long as a person is remembered, they’re still with us. That’s another reason why it’s so important to speak the names of those we’ve lost, especially while there are still those who remember them from first hand experience.

Sure, a reader of a Dedication page won’t know who, specifically, this Nigel listed there was, but they will know that Matt thought enough of that Nigel person, and those he left behind, to speak his name in print. Same for the others also remembered. For me, and probably others, that means the world.

Obviously a gay romance novel isn’t for everyone, but he’s written a variety of things over the years (you can check out Matt’s author page on Amazon to see some examples). But you don’t have to into the genre to appreciate when a kind person does something that touches someone else, and Matt’s inclusion of Nigel in his new book’s Dedication page did exactly that.

Thanks, Matt.