In memoriam H.J.W.: Ne Me Quitte Pas

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done…

Thus commences the famous elegy by Walt Whitman in 1865.

To think that I will forevermore associate this elegy with you, my friend H. W., the modern day Adonis, ever the high achiever. Once upon a time, it would have been unthinkable.

Candlelight vigil. Image: The Antipodean Adrift.
Candlelight vigil. Image: The Antipodean Adrift.

You were my classmate in our freshman year at university. I won’t forget our first day in junior French class together. You stuck out among our ascot-bearing, stripy-tee wearing, coffee-breath smelling, and fresh-faced cohort. And as you fumbled about with your classroom introductions on our first day, I thought to myself, “goodness, if there’s ever a definition for ‘debonair’, this man would be it” (in spite of the foreign-sounding fumble). “Tall, dark and handsome” was written on an online tribute by another friend to you, and boy, there was no truer truth.

The years progressed. We met less and less but you were always willing to lend a helping hand. You were friends with a penguin-esque creature like me. You were friends with everybody; you were loved by all.

Blinded by my false impression of you as the embodiment of mirth and gentleness, I did not see the giveaway signs of unbearable sadness that latched onto you, neither from our meetings nor from your highly amusing internet posts involving parties and grandmothers. I was blinded. For this reason, I have been beating myself up for not having noticed the all-consuming blues that had begun to enshroud you.

If I had known, I would lend you an ear, both ears. I would source all the ears you would ever need. Furs too, – you had a thing for them. Give you a hug that would quash the blue beast, even for just a moment. Sip tea together, discuss the many things we could do with our faltering French. If I had known, I would cry for forgiveness and out of love. I would rally the love to your doorstep so that you can see in the reflection of our teary eyes, just how wonderful you are.

It has been a fortnight since you left for the stars.

You were only 21 years old.

      But I, with mournful tread,
             Walk the deck my captain lies,
                    Fallen cold and dead. (Whitman)

I have tried to the best of my ability, recited ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’, a French song by Jacques Brel, in memory of our classes together. If you can hear us, this is for you my friend, the francophile, the wise man, the charming star:


Ne Me Quitte Pas de Jacques Brel: Paroles. Image: The Antipodean Adrift.
Ne Me Quitte Pas de Jacques Brel: Paroles. English translations available online. Image: The Antipodean Adrift.

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