|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
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.
WHEN YOU WRITE YOUR BOOK
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
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.
MARY WOULD LIKE TO SAY A FEW WORDS
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.