24 October 2009

Starting up the blog again

How do you launch into a topic about tourism or cooking or the weather after all this? Yesterday we went over to S.'s house at noon to take her the quiche Walt made in the morning. She was alone, but in fact she wasn't even there when we arrived.

We went across the street to speak to Jean-Luc's father. He was preparing his lunch — I saw a salade de tomates on the kitchen counter, and Jacques is an avid gardner at 84 years old. He supplied S. and J-L with fresh produce in the summertime, so they didn't even need anything from our garden. They did some gardening themselves, and had a lot of fruit trees, but remember, they worked for a living and didn't have a lot of spare time.

As we were deciding whether to leave or wait, to leave the quiche or take it back home and bring it back later in the day, we saw S. driving up the road. She pulled into the driveway, got out of the car, and said she had realized, no matter what else was happening, the dog, Mo, still needed to eat. And she was out of kibble. So a trip to the supermarket was unavoidable. S. also had two nice-looking baguettes in her hand. We helped carry the groceries in.

Jean-Luc's sisters came in while we were there, and we all had a glass of wine together, a toast to Jean-Luc's memory. S. had asked me to take a look at a poem she wants to read at the funeral Tuesday afternoon, and her rough draft of a French translation of it. I had taken it home and worked on it in the morning while W. made the quiche. I told J-L's sisters about it, what it said roughly, and they said it sounded perfect — just right for their brother's service.

I hadn't actually brought the translation of the poem back to S. because first I sent a copy off by e-mail to CHM for his suggestions. He is a professional translator (retired), and his native language is French while mine isn't. I know CHM would find just the right words and the right tone for the poem and the circumstances, and he did.

Yesterday, an Irish friend and her Dutch husband drove down from London, where they live, to spend the weekend with S. They arrived in the afternoon. I went over there at about 6:00 yesterday evening, while Walt went out for the evening walk with Callie. I had the translation, revue et corrigée par CHM, and wanted to hand it back to S. so that she could have as much time as possible to familiarize herself with it before Tuesday.

And so that she can show it to J-L's sisters. The sisters asked me to talk with S. about whether she will actually be able to get through a reading of the poem at the church on Tuesday, or whether she will lose her composure under the strain of the emotion. S. is determined that she will be able to get through it. She really wants to do it. I wonder if she hadn't started translating the poem in the first place so that she could share it with J-L.

The sisters also asked me to ask S. (who speaks French, but they wanted me to explain all this in English) to consider also reading the poem in English as well as French at the church. English and the local Anglophones have played a big role in J-L's life over the past several years, since he met us, some of our friends, and, especially, S., of course, and her English friends. He didn't speak English himself. There will surely be quite a few English-speaking attendees at the funeral service, however.

According to S., J-L always said that the only thing he really wanted when the time came for his funeral was a profusion of fresh flowers. And he didn't want to be cremated. Walt and I have to go to see the florist in Saint-Aignan today and order some flowers as our contribution to honoring that wish.

It was nice yesterday afternoon meeting the Irish friend, who is a journalist and press-relations specialist, and her Dutch husband, who is a tax lawyer. They actually own a house over near Montrichard, but said unfortunately they don't get to spend nearly enough time there since they are both still active professionally. The Dutch husband told me that he has spent quite a bit of time in North Carolina. His son is a military pilot and received his training there, so the father went to visit, loved the place and has returned many times over the years. The Irish friend is going to Las Vegas later this month for a press event of some kind.

S. is holding up. She said she had never been happier in her life than since she met J-L about 5 years ago. She plans to stay in Saint-Aignan, but she wants to go to spend Christmas with her sister, who lives in British Columbia, not far from Vancouver.

It's a small world, isn't it? People fly off in all directions, all the time. Walt and I are not exceptions, though we travel less now than we used to.

I haven't been taking any pictures. I would actually love to take pictures at the funeral, but I don't think it would be appropriate. As I said, I've never attended a funeral in France before. I will write about it, as you might guess.

By the way, the music that will be playing as people come into the village church on Tuesday afternoon, and as they file out to walk over to the cemetery for the burial, will be some of J-L's favorite Johnny Hallyday songs. He loved Johnny (say [djuh-NEE] in French). The priest is fine with that. During the service, which will not be a full mass but more informal, there will be musical interludes featuring works of the composer Mendelssohn — S.'s selection. She's a pianist herself.


  1. Hello Ken and Walt,
    I am sorry to learn you have just lost a dear neighbor and friend. You seem to be taking good care of S. It always startles me when someone younger than me dies.
    I imagine in St. Aignan the cemetery is close to the church, so most people will continue from the mass to the burial. In the Paris region, except for Jewish funerals I've been to, most people go to the mass and just the family goes to the burial. Wherever you are and whatever the ceremony, a funeral is moving.
    Keep S stocked with your good food and friendship.

  2. Hello Ken and Walt...

    So sorry to read about this sad loss of a wonderful friend to you both. It is sad when anyone dies, but it so young. I am sure that S is so grateful to have caring people around her, in her time of need!

  3. As someone wrote in yesterday's comments, your friend became our friend. How wonderful to have Johnny's music played at the church.
    I watched "Faubourg 36" yesterday. I liked it a lot. Also in the frozen food section of Trader Joe's, they have Pithiviers. That made my day.

  4. We must render unto Caesar... Your translation was absolutely perfect and imaginative. There were only two or three extremely minus details, that weren't even necessary to change. But I had to comply!

  5. Ken,
    Today's post was very moving. You captured details of your visit to S. and J-L's family very eloquently. I know first-hand how you seem to always have the right words to say in such times.

    When I was reading about the Dutch and Irish folks who you seemed to hit it off with, I couldn't help but think that this meeting was a gift from J-L. May he bestow many more "gifts" on you. I know you will remember him fondly, as will I.

  6. Thanks Cheryl, and thanks CHM. You too, Anne and Ellen and Nadège. We are staying into today. A fine mist is falling, and it feels like winter even though it's not that cold outside. S. and her friends the Irish/Dutch couple are coming over for an apéro tomorrow evening. That'll be nice, and it will get S. out of the house. Tonight, they are having dinner with Ballooning Jane, a friends of S.'s. Maybe some of you have heard of her.

  7. Jean Luc sounds like an incredibly loved man. "One in a million" as my parents would say. I cannot imagine speaking at my beloved's service and greatly admire S's strength.

  8. I'm sorry for the loss to you and to the community. Sounds like you are both a huge support to S.


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