A couple of days ago, on the second anniversary of Joe's death, a card came in the post. The sender's name on the back was J.Hyam, which gave me a start, but when I looked again it was a London address. It was in fact from Joyce, the wife of Joe's brother Ken, with the very sad news that Ken had died, suddenly, of a heart attack, almost two weeks previously. She had written almost straight away, though the card had taken a time to get here, which was strikingly thoughtful of her, since she and I didn't know each other personally.
Ken was the youngest, and last surviving, of the three Hyam brothers by some way, not yet seventy, I think. I met him just the once at Joe's funeral, and instantly felt I was with a trusted friend, not only because of our blogging contact and connection through Joe, but because he was clearly a gentle, kind and listening soul, a quiet man. He was a teacher, specifically of youngsters with learning difficulties, and he must have been a lovely one; the comments he often left here were always positive but also thoughtful and showing a very careful and attentive reading, and at times of loss and sadness most sensitive and comforting. We corresponded from time to time in the last couple of years, and a little while after his brother died he sent me Joe's copy of Eliot's Four Quartets, which had come into his possession, well-preserved with an inscription from when he left school in the fifties, a preternaturally perceptive choice which meant more to me than I can say.
He blogged as Lucas, mostly poems, sometime photos, less so of recent times, but he also ran a collaborative magazine blog with some excellent content called Small Party, for the last couple of years.* He was a fine and original poet, his work an intriguing mixture of naivety, subtlety and surprise which seemed to bespeak his character. He posted last in January of this year, about an old vinyl copy of Brahms Lieder he had found in a charity shop, copied onto CD, then spent some time researching the lyrics of and rendering into his own translations, the kind of pleasure in finding treasure and unexpected beauty in the detail which was typical of the man. I'm taking the liberty of reposting the translation he made of one of these, a poem by Dieter Rihm. It seems to me to take one to a place of clear, bright, joyful serenity, a good note to leave on, even if you are leaving too soon.
There was a town of noble heritage,
A church, shops, thatched roofs with spiral chimneys,
A hill that sloped down to a landing stage.
I see white blossoms drifting on the breeze,
The pleasant boredom of the boats in Summer,
How Autumn’s setting sun and fiery leaves
Influence the lake with bronze, how it grows calmer.
I see the stillness deep Winter conceives
When in the lake an image of the town
Appears: sloping roofs, smoke in blue air,
The shops closed-up, the church’s gentle spire,
This holiday, pointing both up and down
Into the water, which holds as in a mirror
Good will for everyone, both here and there.
Dieter Rihm, translated by Ken Hyam.
*Both these are now left as they were; I imagine he must have been the comment moderator on Small Party, so even a comment about his passing can't be made to appear. This brings it home again that, morbid as it may seem, we should think about what might happen to our blogs if the worst happens to us, and if possible sort out someone to be able to access and post on them, or at least do a bit of housekeeping. Ghost blogs of the departed, left hanging in the ether, getting cluttered with spam comments, are a very melancholy thing, I think, whereas on Ellena's and Paula's, for example, their dear ones have access and have posted since their deaths, which seems better, and even a potential comfort to all concerned. For many of us, our on-line lives are an important and very solid dimension of our whole lives, and need to be tended to and marked when these end, I think.