For the past twenty years or so, I have been reading death notices and obituaries in the various newspapers that I consume. Perhaps it comes with getting older, but reading about other people’s deaths is fascinating and instructive. I usually check the birth dates of the departed and compare them with my own birth date. Now that I’m almost 70, I’ve been noticing that increasing numbers of early baby boomers – my people! – are showing up dead in the death notices.
And so it was while reading last Saturday’s Globe and Mail (May 28, 2016) that I learned about the death of Clive Russell in Warkworth on May 22. I had never heard of Clive Russell before reading his death notice, but, from all accounts, he was a remarkable man – artist, carpenter, builder, writer, landscape designer, historian, and architect. An online search revealed a community deeply mourning his loss. The online tributes showed him to be part of the artistic lifeblood of Warkworth.
In the eloquent words of his obituary, Clive Russell “shared the vision of Dostoevsky that ‘beauty will save the world’.” And it continued: “We will all miss the magnificent, regal, dignified, gentle giant of a man who tenderly occupied such little space.”
Try reading that without weeping.
Most moving, however, were Clive’s own words, also quoted in the death notice:
…My artworks are inspired by a deep appreciation of the mystery and spirit of place, the evidence in natural and built form of energy and movement, history and possibility, the world as it is and as it is becoming, of inter-relatedness, community and the humour of unexpected juxtaposition. In each place, whether built, cultivated or wild, there is an inherent wisdom and life. Our sense gates need only be opened a moment to be astonished by the vastness and power, tenderness and fragility of the world and our mirror-like identity with it…
What a gift this man was to his loved ones and his community. I wish I had known him.