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as delivered by Les Wicks at the scattering of Mark's ashes ...

Thank you all for coming here today.  Each shoulder is a pillar for the person next to them, each smile is a pillow.

I don't know about you, but think I've already shed my buckets of tears.   I don't see today as some kind of repeat performance of the funeral, which was so lovingly overseen by Sol.  A very large part of us is that most mundane of miracles: the mortal sentient animal.  The wound of Mark's passing is starting to close and all of us face that imperative of living, which is both a daily blessing and a daily burden.  We're going to scatter the Ashes of our friend Mark/Max.  But don't be sad.  This stuff is just the remnant of a remnant of a husk.  There may be a tear or two but I want today to be about something more enduring.  I'm going to talk about some things that are important, things that go to the essence of what Mark meant and means for our lives.  Mark was no saint.  He was every bit as much a flawed human being as any of us.  I suppose we gloss over that at our time of mourning.   I'm not interested in sidestepping that today, but it is simply irrelevant.   I'm talking about our lives into the future and how Mark will play a part in that.


As best I remember it, Mark and I became friends fairly seamlessly in first-year high school.  We were part of a group of friends, I think fairly bright and inquisitive kids.  I will always remember his vibrant, voracious interest in exploring the richest paths.  The first time he got drunk a bemused adult asked how many drinks he'd had.  He delightedly yelled "six cans!" This capacity to be freely astonished and enriched by the tactile and intellectually challenging aspects of the world continued to be his core driver.  The teenage Mark started painting, and the girls on the masonite always had the biggest breasts, the night skies were a logjam of stars.  He started playing drums and he could never be too busy, too well equipped, too hungry for the edge.  We were always different people.  Sometimes physically separated, other times at points of our own personal narrative where there was simply very little space for engaging with the other.  Our 70's girlfriend called us the "Brotherhood".   We are still brothers.


The other week we were going through Mark's office when I noticed a blank notebook.  It was no big deal, one of those two-dollar jobs you get from any discount store.  But it was decorated with stars and so seductively blank! In a moment of great synchronicity Mary and I both came to the conclusion that this was my inheritance from my oldest and best friend.  At the funeral when they played Mark's song one line resonated with me at a profound level: When you write your book, think of me.  Now, I'm a writer, and I took that mixture of promise and demand literally.  But on reflection, I think it goes a bit deeper than that.  I think it's an invitation to all of us to live our lives fully, respectfully and fruitfully.  To carry a certain essence of Mark with us as we all write our books, the books of our life.  There are several key themes where I today make my vow that Mark will be with me as I write my future.  I invite you to make that vow with me.


My beautiful friend was a visual artist, musician and writer.  My hand could never create a picture of beauty.  My voice is hopeless in song.  But when Mark was looking at or listening to some piece of intense creation I was repeatedly astonished at the brightly opened eye, the intense intelligence & the appetite for wonder.  I don't think he saw that much distance between the act of good creating & the act of good appreciation.  That respect for both ends of the process is an enduring gift for all of us.  We who have an ongoing life have to meet the challenge that Mark presented us to be open to the wonder of human creativity.  I make that vow.


In one of my poems I use the expression ecstatic imbeciles.  Which is just another way of saying holy fools and that is a core of Mark's grandest ambition for himself and the human race.  In around 38 years of knowing this sweet bugger, I can't remember one serious fight, basically because I don't think he ever felt there was something on this earth worth getting that angry about.  Amongst you, I was probably the only one who ever punched him in the face! We were practising some party stunt & I was in a box.  I was supposed to leap out at a certain time like those cake girls, but we were all little bit drunk and I misread the signal.  I smashed through the cardboard fist first at the time Mark was leaning over the box.  Caught him square on the eye.  Through his pain & my mortification there was that glorious sound of the Leabeater belly laugh.  He would never want us to take anything too seriously.   And I make that vow.


Mark always believed that honesty was the ultimate humility.  One of the reasons he never expended too much energy playing the games artist's have to play to be "successful" was that he saw through the artifice & decided it wasn't at the core of a truthful life.  In recent years he has faced some difficult times -- financial, family, "place in life" & of course health.   Strangely enough, he found most of that comparatively easy and coped because he did not look away or dissemble.  I remember last August walking along a beautiful deserted beach at sunset with him, discussing death.  The light was thick and rich like Baileys.  We were facing this together, letting peace & sorrow find their own level.  Suddenly, a pod of dolphins broke the surface and shadowed us about 15 metres offshore as we walked the sand.  It was so beautiful it was corny, we realised this simultaneously and collapsed in laughter.   Whatever gods there are, may they give me the strength to face all of my life with this clarity & with Mark on my shoulder.  I make this vow.


Hey, big secret… Mark's mates, family & loved ones are, let's say, "eclectic".   Maybe not so different from any other group of human beings but Jesus we've got a few emotional clubfeet we drag around behind us.  Our friend didn't pretend we were perfect but I reckon I have heard a kind, undisguised loving comment about every single one of you.  I think Mark had come to understand that takes much less energy to accept and cherish people that it does to hate them.  Most of the great puzzles in our world are not that hard.  Once again this man has taught me something that I will try to carry with me forever.  I make this vow


Mark loved Wollongong and was so grateful he could spend his remaining days there.  But how he railed at the crooks and vandals who were carving up the landscape to make a quick buck.  He saw the world as infected with a kind of psychopathy that was slowly killing it.  Everyone was entranced with the acquisition and maintenance of "stuff".  Most of his friends were materially better off than him.  Without judgment, he listened to our complaints about jobs and cars and property.  But he never forgot, and never let us forget, that that was just white noise.  What we were, what life was, is something infinitely simpler, deeper, richer.  Like a virus, human beings have multiplied, grown hungrier and weakened this planet to a point where we can conceive of a time when it simply gives up.  Mark leaves a society he didn't like very much.  Like every human being I face a myriad of choices daily.  Some do damage, some do good.  Before I immerse myself in more STUFF, I will think of Mark.  I make this vow


Mark and I argued over this for decades, always good-naturedly.  Like so many of the "once religious" I have an innate dislike for the clamour of God peddlers.  Mark too shared a distrust of institutions.  But his appetite, his inquisitiveness always circled the wider question of spirituality.  For him, the only real questions were the great questions.  Only in the meta realms were the paths wide enough for his feet.  He wandered there daily, came back to us babbling and too often we refused to listen.  Mark threw away the robes and bells of 100 faiths, found at the core a timeless, endless unity.  I'm a toddler, at the very beginning of an easy-grade path.  But in memory of you Mark, I will not turn away.  I make this vow

This is what we are here for today.  Tomorrow, as we all write our books, think of Mark.  He will be with us.


We will now have 1 minute's silence.  I invite you to quietly contemplate or send a prayer… whatever your path suggests.

Mary and I will now take the bowl to the cliffs edge.  Those who wish to join us are invited to put take some ashes from the bowl & help us lift this remnant to the winds, we will lift this remnant to the sustaining ocean, we will pass this remnant onto the past with the affirmation that our lives will carry on in a spirit of growth, love, laughter and inquiry infused with the memory of Mark Stephen Leabeater.

Les Wicks
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