In Memoriam – Sam Harper 1989 to 2013

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Sam’s image, as Grace, his sister looks on

In April 2013 a delightful young man, Sam Harper took part in the Brighton marathon. 2014-09-15 18.14.50It was his first and destined to be his last. It was a warm day and through a combination of uniquely awful factors Sam died. It was pretty much instantaneous and we are told that is a consolation. Well. Maybe. For the deceased perhaps in that they know not what is about to happen. But for those left behind it is terrible. He was 23 and a hole the size of his generous heart appeared in the lives of those many who met and knew him. The Lawyer was one such. They met at senior school aged 11 and remained firm friends throughout. He was a regular guest at our house (as the Lawyer was at Sam’s). I have many memories of Sam – not that I ever called him Sam for there were too many Sams in his group – he became Marco. He would be found, long after others were in bed or well before they were up attacking a bowl of cereal at the kitchen table. He could conduct a meaningful conversation with someone his senior while the other boys had lost the power of speech and resorted to simian grunting and sniffing of armpits. He had the singularly smelliest trainers in Christendom – they spoke for themselves from the hallway. He left enough clothes at ours to fill Primark twice over and we held a set of his house keys for at least a year.

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the site was a sort of hippy commune – just perfect

But the thing that stood out was his love, and knowledge, of music.
And not just the current fad, the Eminem, the Quetus, or the current rap nightmare or whatever it was ( I know I’m well out of (dub) step with current trends) but also Carly Simon and Frank Zappa, Grace Slick and Marc Bolan, musicians from my era. He was modern and old school at the same time and as with any teenager with a passion his knowledge was better than my memory. I’d mistake Clapton for Hendricks and he’d put me right. Nicely, pretending to be a little uncertain, not wanting to embarrass me (I suppose he might have worried I’d remove the cereal supply but I’m pretty sure he didn’t have the ego to boast).

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the tube tent puts in an appearance

He was like me, a bit of a klutz at times, and I loved that in him; at his memorial service in Dulwich a set of balloons were released. They soared into the pure blue sky, and wrapped themselves round the church steeple. Marco’s hand at work.

Marco was a delight, in part, because so were his friends. You know, come senior school, that your youngsters will now be making their own way more and more. All you can hope is that the guidance you have given means they choose their peer group wisely. The Lawyer did and the evidence of this weekend suggests Marco did too.

2014-09-13 13.00.37You see his friends, led by his sister Grace, have put on a music festival in his name. S.Harper Sounds. It took place near Westbury in Wiltshire over Friday and Saturday attended by 350 plus of his friends and supporters. Music of all kinds was available to both the discerning and junk palates and the atmosphere couldn’t have been bettered. The Lawyer did his bit, of which as a parent I am hugely proud but the others who sweated the blood – Sam Eade, George, Jam, Frostie  and others I have forgotten or never knew need a shout out too – a major thank you and HUGE congrats for what you did.

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sensible footwear – it has to be the Textiliste

I’m not a religious cove – I would love to have it in me to believe Marco was watching on while devouring some heavenly Rice Krispies – but I do know that for those left behind any death, but especially such an untimely one, is both painful and damaging in both obvious and subtle ways. That loss, that hole is never filled and the idea that time is a healer is, to my eyes, hogwash. All the passage of time does is bind that grief with other experiences to make the griever a different person. The grief is there, it can still bite with just the same intensity and impact as it did originally. It’s just that other experiences are now added on top to distract from that grief.

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The beautician enjoys a silly picture

And that is what these brilliant twenty somethings have done for us. They have given us a new and rich experience in the knowledge that Sam would have loved it. They have wrapped their loss in the memory of fun and joy and escape. The pain hasn’t been pushed away but taken and absorbed and used to drive a better memory than the one that comprised the shock  of hearing the news, the reality of the funeral and the numbing realisation of his absence at his wake. It couldn’t stop there; that couldn’t be the last collective reminder of a life well, if shortly, lived, of a friend much loved and missed. No, something bigger better more appropriate was needed and this more than met the case.

When my dad died my last memories are of a hospital bed and a funeral. But then we had a memorial service that served as a smoothing of the last memory. Happily for Sam’s friends and I hope his bereft family there is now something else, something tangible added in the memory bank.

We missed you Sam. We know you were around somewhere, listening, critiquing. We just wish we’d bumped into you. Next time, yeah?2014-09-13 13.00.30 2014-09-15 18.14.18 2014-09-15 18.14.32 2014-09-15 18.14.38

I couldn’t stay late on Saturday but these lovely people provided a glorious finale before some serious music appreciation well into the night.

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Here are some pics of the event.

sam H balloons

Sam’s balloons – credit George Grey for art work

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About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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31 Responses to In Memoriam – Sam Harper 1989 to 2013

  1. Sohrab says:

    Wonderful tribite Geoff to the love and life and memory of Sam Marco and testimony to the wonderful future the world has in the hands of our wonderful wonderful youth

    Bless you


    Liked by 2 people

  2. SamLePond says:

    Pitched Perfectly. Well done, Dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. willowdot21 says:

    The brightest lights burn out the fastest. He stood at your shoulder and watched you right every word of that beautiful post. Can’t you hear the Snap Crackle

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Cindi says:

    Such beautiful and honest words from the heart; thank you for sharing them, Geoff. My sincere condolences to your family, to this young man’s family, and to his many friends.


    • TanGental says:

      Thank you Cindi. It had the potential to be a difficult weekend but both Beverly, Sam’s mother, and Grace, his sister glowed with the delight in the happiness of others which was itself a fantastic tribute.


  5. Annecdotist says:

    Beautiful tribute, Geoff, sure beats those ghastly “poems” we used to get in our local press. (Kids – I’m talking about the olden days!)


    • TanGental says:

      Thank you Anne. There’s been a certain amount of FB traffic and it does seem to have struck a chord with the lawyer’s friends which is gratifying.


  6. Doug says:

    Incredibly touching and heartfelt words.


  7. anon says:

    Beautifully written. Perfect.


  8. frankiedeane says:

    Beautiful words.


  9. Lisa Reiter says:

    Ironically trying to read this through my tears over my breakfast bowl. Rice crispies may never be the same again but a lovely little nudge to hug my boy a little closer each morning. Thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts on a special young man and the uplifting way music has had of bringing everyone in his life together, in celebration of the way he touched theirs.


    • TanGental says:

      Hugs a must. I’m not sure how old your boy (and others?) is/are but if he’s still to do the pushing away bit as they go through secondary school I will share the one thing I wish I’d done – bought a peaked cap. I think I learnt more from sitting in the driver’s seat, ferrying hither and yon than from any other contact during the grunting years. If I had looked like a chauffeur maybe I would have heard even more, but then again I heard some things I rather wish I hadn’t so maybe I had the balance right.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lisa Reiter says:

        Soon to be sixteen and sometimes still sweet and so far not too grunty. Home with a friend for the coming exeat – no doubt with piles of smelly washing I will attempt to appreciate as these remaining years at home are likely to fly by. Some ferrying to be done – I might try the peaked cap. Thanks for the suggestion 🙂 and hugs soon enough!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Charli Mills says:

    As parents we’re somewhat like the stable hand, watching the horses come and go from the barn. We notice so much and these are the gifts you give back–the details of your observations on all the comings and goings. A beautifully expressed and written tribute.


  11. JH says:

    I have never smelt trainers like it


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  15. Ritu says:

    How sad… bit what a beautiful tribute to a bright flame extinguished too soon. xx


  16. What a terrible tragedy to be taken so soon. You wrote such a heartwarming tribute Geoff, he must have been a very special young man. A fabulous idea by his friends to host this musical event for them all to share.


  17. Norah says:

    So sad, Geoff, a life cut far too short. I almost didn’t pop back to read, thinking I remembered this original post. It seems familiar to me, but I obviously didn’t leave a comment at the time. I’m sure the lawyer will appreciate your telepathic hugs. Best wishes to all.


  18. Beautifully written, arresting and profound tribute, Geoff


  19. They wrapped their loss in “the memory of fun and joy and escape”…that line says it all for me. What a pleasure to read this one, in spite of the tragedy of his loss. Beautiful tribute, Geoff.


  20. JT Twissel says:

    Such a lovely tribune to a young man who was obviously well loved. With his memory comes all that is good.


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