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Essential Journal

  /  Issue 72   /  Issue 72: Christian Friedel

Issue 72: Christian Friedel

“Hope is a thing with feathers.” 

Emily Dickinson


I think eulogies are shit. How do you sum up a life in a few short paragraphs that portrays the role of that very person to everyone perched on the pews that terrible day? You can’t, I suppose, that’s the point of grief – it’s the lack of that wholeness of which that person brought to you. Yet, it’s at the eulogy, I think so anyway, that it begins, that steady minimising of a life once so full and expansive. First, it’s down to those few short paragraphs. Then a memory spoke over one too many at Christmas. Then, eventually, as those immediate relatives fall victim to their own minimising, a life becomes a few words. A name and a date. Then—

I visited Sylvia Plath’s grave a few months ago. A point of contention for a lot of people who’ve endeavoured over the years to scrape away the engraved ‘Hughes’ tacked onto the poet’s name on the stone. It was well-kept enough. Fans had littered the dirt with pens to homage her impact on their own writing, their own lives. Surrounding Plath’s grave though, in the large churchyard of Hepstonhall, were so many forgotten lives. Stones weather-faded. Knocked down and cracked under winds. 1900s. 1800s. 1700s. People who were loved, cherished, probably hated at some points too, and people who had eulogies spoken when they were laid to rest. Where are those words now? Plath had fame, infamy to some, and her own words are still out there to be shared with so many. But the others? 

This issue comes at a difficult time, both personally for myself and for the world at large. Bereavement is a terrible beast and loss is something that you never really stop feeling. I know I’m fortunate, even when the grief sometimes feels too much to bear, that my loss is only at 1. There are thousands, millions, across the world who are losing everyone they love each sunrise. For that reason, the theme of this issue is ‘Memory’. It’s legacy and it’s eulogies and honouring those who’ve gone by learning from what took them, and how we can prevent it happening again. But there is also a hope to it, an optimism, that I think we all need right now.