March 18th, 1968 – March 17th, 2015
Iggy, aka Greg Spoon, was amazing.
I wanted to write this sooner, but it didn’t feel right. I can’t explain why. Maybe it was because I wasn’t ready. Maybe it was because I was afraid I wouldn’t do him justice. I think though it’s because I am finally allowing myself time to sit down and actually think about him.
Yesterday was the day we officially remembered him. The room was clean and prepared with care. A circle was created, symbolizing our connectedness. Simon added chair upon chair to the circle that we were going to gather in.
“Do you think we’ll need more?” he asked. The other person helping him set up looks at the 30 chairs and doesn’t hesitate, “Oh yeah.”
More chairs are added, and the question is repeated. So is the answer. 40, 50, 80, 100. All the chairs in the sanctuary are used; every space available for a chair is used, and fortunately there’s still standing room.
In the center of the circle is a table. Our friend is there. Oh, not physically of course, at least not in the way that you may have been thinking. He is there. His image is there in pictures, in items, in symbols, in spirit. On the north side of the room are 3 shrines to my friend. Drawings he has imbued with life, pictures with his spirit, items that he held dear. Above these shrines is a video, an edited interview of him from 7 years ago. His voice is clear, deep, full; he is a healthy weight, and his eyes are alive. It is beautiful and difficult. And confusing. Our pastor, coming down from the loft, above the sanctuary, was scared and confused by the deep, soulful voice that he recognized coming from the sanctuary. He stepped suspiciously into the sanctuary, saw the video, and was relieved and sad at the same time.
The time came and slowly people arrived. The interview played; they stood and listened to his voice travel across time and soothe them while sharing stories of his life. They marveled at his artwork, and smiled at his pictures, as though maybe he will smile and wink back. There is a book where people can share short moments and sentiments that will be given to his family.
The room slowly filled. By the time the memorial was scheduled to begin almost every single chair held someone who loved Iggy. The music began, and the scent of sage slowly filled the room as the Creator’s children washed themselves. A prayer. Then an introduction of thanks and reflection, then one by one, the stories filled the space.
The words spoken slowly crafted an image of this man: an artist, a scoundrel, a lover, a friend, a companion, a brother; someone who wasn’t afraid to get physical when it was necessary; a joker. One story that was shared, that makes me smile when I remember it, was he told someone when he died he was going to barge right past St. Peter, fight God and then, after he beat up God, they were going to sit down and have a beer together (“Kelly’s!” someone yells – which is a very sweet and cheap sherry.). There seems to be a hint of “Jacob wrestling God until he received his blessing” in this story.
I spoke as well. I made mine short at the memorial, but here I will be a little more verbose.
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The thing I will remember most about Iggy, apart from his gift as an artist and the drawings he did of my family, the thing I will remember most is how he taught me about Shakespeare. Sure, I’m an actor by trade and I love theatre. I do enjoy Shakespeare as well. In fact, my favorite play of his is Hamlet. Which could be seen as a coincidence, but I think it was more than that. You see, in 2012, after a production of “The Elephant Man” that we performed at Sanctuary, which Iggy came to see, he approached me and said that he wanted to learn more about that acting thing, “you know, To be or not to be, that kind of thing”. I told him I could help him with acting, but he was clear that it was to be “about” acting, not to help him act (I don’t know what I could have helped him with anyway, he was an amazing actor in his own right!). What a challenge! I thought and thought and eventually it dawned on me, use To be or not to be! If that is what he associates with acting, why not just start there. So I did.
Through a series of connections, I found a man who was a Hamlet nut and was willing to help devise a workshop that would result in the participants re-writing Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in their own words. Over the course of 6 weeks and 5 sessions, Iggy and two of his friends, began to understand and translate “To be or not to be” into their own words, their voice. And throughout this process I began to learn truly what Hamlet was talking about. Iggy’s life, at least the last several years, was the embodiment of “To be or not to be”. I am forever changed because of Iggy. I am forever changed because of his friendship with me. And my understanding of Hamlet is more alive because of him. Indeed, my understanding of life in all of it’s messiness is more beautiful because of my friend Iggy.
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I didn’t speak this nearly so eloquently at the service, but I think he’ll forgive me. Or maybe we’ll just brawl it out when we see each on the flip side and then have a beer. Whatever happens next I know that my life is richer because of him. And from all that I heard yesterday, I know that his life was rich.
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He died on March 17th, 2015 in the ICU at Toronto Eastern General Hospital. As he took his last breaths, close to 20 people were in the room with him. Among them were his mother, his son and his son’s partner. He had only met his son for the first time last year; what a blessing that he was also able to meet his granddaughter at that time as well. In that short time, his son got to see how difficult his dad’s life was, but also how beautiful a man he had become. I count it an honour beyond compare to have met his son and to have shared in that moment with him. What a sad and tragic gift to share that moment. But it is, was, a gift. He breathed his last as some of his closest friends and family stood, sat, lay by and breathed with him. Many breaths caught in that room as he passed.
Many breaths filled the sanctuary with stories, and memories, and treasures. In that moment, Greg, Iggy was alive.
When you have a moment, please sit with yourself and respond to the Creator, to God, to the Universe, as you are so moved. There are many people in our community who’s hearts are breaking as we remember him and we would cherish your thoughts and prayers.
Iggy, I love you!
(click on the images for a bigger view)