It was just last Christmas, wasn’t it, it was the party for Margie’s birthday, her last birthday party. She’d insisted that nobody should waste effort and money and time on bringing presents, and I understand that. You get older in this life, and you’ve got the stuff that you craved for when you were younger and couldn’t afford it, and then people might give you presents for the sake of giving you a present, which neither they want particularly to give, and you don’t particularly want to receive it, and you end up with more stuff that you have to get rid of. She cut right through that, in that wonderful laid back way of hers, and said ‘No presents, please’.
And so we showed up and I though you know what, I’ll give her something with no package, no baggage to it, I’ll say a poem. And I thought you know Margie, she’s the same birth sign as Jesus Christ, and it’s deep midwinter, and so I thought I needed a poem that would speak to that. And also this hopeful, brave woman; I mean the cancer thing, it’s extraordinary, because whenever I was at Margie’s, it never occurred to me. The thing I felt most wounded for, on her behalf, was the damage to her voice. She was working with this kind of constriction in her voice; and you know she wasn’t like that normally, in the old days when I met her, and I felt sad for that. But she didn’t give a damn because this was just a condition, but you know, actually, living makes all of that redundant.
The poem I brought her then was ‘The last word of a Blue Bird’, by Robert Frost (see Birthday Party blog). It was written for a little girl, in the winter, about looking forward. But actually, when you think about it, there’s a whole different realm of meaning in the poem, because it’s a proper poem; and Margie and I saw it as a much bigger metaphor for her life.
And lo and behold she’s left a request that we do a poem today.
Margie’s life was such an extraordinary journey. As we all see here today, she touches people in wildly differing worlds, and lives, that would not normally meet each other; she was a great gatherer of the ungatherable. There is a Frost poem that begins ‘Something there is that does not love a wall…’, that talks about unexplained, mysterious natural forces, and Margie was surely one of those… but I think the poem that sums her up beautifully, again from Robert Frost, is this one:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
My memories of Margie will always make me smile. Our dear, adventurous, quirky, laidback but tenacious friend. It’s our travelling together that especially prompts memories about her spirit that I think you’ll identify with. I once joined Margie at Angkor Wat, in Cambodia. Margie’d planned the trip, and had of course selected the very best hotel, no less than the former prince’s summer palace, where Jackie Onassis used to visit him. Knowing that I loved baths, when I arrived she’d drawn up a huge tub and had it filled with rose petals – what a welcome. Duly refreshed, we immediately started exploring the wonderful temple ruins, and a tropical monsoon soaked us, so we went back to the hotel. I’d have settled for a long siesta after lunch, but Margie wanted further exploration. We didn’t have any dry clothes left, so she suggested we venture out in the hotel’s white waffle dressing gowns – nothing else on, just the robes. Other memories include being with Margie in Delhi, awaiting our friend Kathy’s arrival. Margie suggested we dress in local costume, the salwar khamiz, had our hair coiffed a la memsahib, and chewed betel nut. Our resulting appearance, including the red teeth, gave Kathy quite a surprise. In Jordan’s Petra, we pretended to be temple girls and danced the seven veils, having ensured no one else was around.
Margie also enabled her spirit reach countless strangers, through her brilliant blog, Cancer Curmudgeon. And with the help of Antonia, Margie was able to blog until just a couple of weeks ago, and the comments she received are amazing. [Here Trudy read a selection of comments, many to be found on www.opensalon.com, where Marjorie also posted.]
Margie, you were much loved, and you’ll be much missed; but your enduring spirit will always make us smile.
The minister then invited any of us to come up and light a candle, and say anything that they might want to share with the congregation. Reverend Ian himself began by lighting a candle in Hester’s name, ‘who’s sorry she can’t be here today, but her thoughts are with us all.’
‘This is Gerald. Thanks for this Quaker-like moment. We first met each other in the 80s, as part of the Patrons of New Art at the Tate. I’ve always, for whatever reasons, I always called Marjorie ‘Babe’; I want to remember her; I miss her enormously; and now we are all of us diminished, and always will be. My last memory of Babe was at my place in Tuscany, cooking in the kitchen, which she often did – chaos on the floor – the light and the life. Go peacefully, Babe.’
Iwona: ‘Bye Margie’
Anthony: ‘‘So many wonderful memories and experiences we shared with Marjorie, but I’ll just mention one. Whenever we travelled she had this uncanny ability to source out the most amazing restaurants, in the middle of nowhere.’
Pat: ‘I have to share that two weeks ago today I was sitting with Marjorie, and I said to her ‘Marge, you seem intrinsically happy’ and in her generosity that she used to share with all of us, she said ‘yes, I am intrinsically happy, and not only that but I am the happiest that I ever have been.’ I wanted to share that – and I also wanted to share that she did not die without knowing of the demise of the News of the World.’ [much laughter]
Scarlett: ‘This is for marjorie, thank you for being such a good friend and being so kind to me- I will miss you.’
‘I’ve lit two candles, one for myself and one for Sid, who couldn’t be here, but who asked that whatever ritual Marjorie had asked for, could we participate in it on her behalf. Sid was one of the Americans, like Susan, to whom Marjorie would offer endless generosity, as she did even to the odd English people she picked up on her way.’
Simon Parkes: ‘I am the person that Susan alluded to and I interviewed Marge about cleaning houses … and Susan and Marge and I once had a wonderful week in Maine, traveling around; we went into an antique shop and I saw a lovely chair, and I bought it, and it’s now in my bedroom – it’s very simple, with wicker seating – and I said to Marge ‘How am I going to get it home?’ And she just said ‘You’ll find a way.’ And I did. Thank you Marge.
Lutz: ‘Margie was a wise woman, I learnt something from her – not just one thing, but one comes to mind just now: that when hope fails you, there’s still curiosity.’
Rawle: ‘I lived with Marge as long as I lived with my own mother, and there are so many stories… the good, the bad and the ugly… But there’s one thing I’ll always remember, that I said to her about that big wall of books, ‘The thing is, have you read all those books?’ ‘No, but I bought them.’ [laughter]