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Koos Kombuis

Koos remembers Lucas Maree

2011-02-28 11:49
I'm not good at funerals. When someone close to me dies, I prefer to deal with my grief privately. I did not go to Johannes Kerkorrel's funeral. Hell, I did not even attend the funeral of my own father. The fact that Johannes Kerkorrel had been one of my best friends whereas my own father was, until his death, an almost complete stranger, had nothing to do with it. I'm simply not good at funerals.

The fact that I don't go to funerals doesn't mean that I think funerals are wrong. I wish I felt differently about funerals. I envy people who can grieve in public. Perhaps this is why I am writing this piece and publishing it on the Web. I feel the need to share some of my grief about someone who died recently.

Do you mind if I talk about him for a moment? I'd like to share a thought or two about fellow singer/songwriter Lucas Maree.

As if nothing had passed

Lucas was not a close friend, but certainly a close colleague. I had known him since the early days in Pretoria. I had breakfast with him and his daughter late last year in Nelspruit. That was when he simply grinned and said, “I've realised I won't live forever.” We both avoided eye contact at that moment, and carried on talking of other things as if nothing had passed between us.

A few weeks ago, when I received the SMS from Coenie de Villiers with the news of his death, it did not sink in right away. I felt sad, but on that particular day I was too busy to allow myself to absorb the full impact of the news.

Until one evening last week, when I told my wife: “You will have to excuse me tonight. After supper, I'm going upstairs to my study to think about Lucas Maree for a while. I'm taking the bottle of Polish vodka with me.”

For an hour, I drank Polish vodka, and just sat there in the darkness in front of my computer. And I thought of Lucas.

I tried to write down my thoughts, but gave up. I tried to cry, and the tears wouldn't come. In the end, I didn't think of Lucas's death at all. I thought of him as a living person. I thought of some of the surprisingly intimate conversations we had over the years. I also remembered silly things. Like how much he loved ice cold Lipton's tea in a can.

Victoria Baai

And I remembered my favourite Lucas Maree song. Perhaps the best song ever written in Afrikaans. The one about Victoria Bay. I remembered the best times I had had in Victoria Bay. It was where I proposed to Kannetjie. It is one the most beautiful spots in South Africa.

And now, it will be the scene of Lucas Maree's funeral. One of his last requests to his family, shortly before he died, was that his ashes be strewn across the water of Victoria Bay.

I made an oath to myself that I would never, when I thought of Lucas, remember the last newspaper photographs of him. I will not think of him as a sick man in a hospital bed. I will remember our conversations. I will remember his music. And I will allow myself to be in denial about his death.

That is why I cannot go to Lucas Maree's funeral. For me, he isn't dead. He has simply moved to another town. He is alive and well and living forever in Victoria Bay.         

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