A Eulogy for David

by Tom Kessel

After my Dad passed, I felt the urge to write down some words that I associate with him. These are both personal and general.

I hope that I am able to capture some of David’s character, and that you can recognise some of these descriptions.

Like us all, David was many different things to many different people.

 

A son and a grandson of course; a brother to Paul; and later on a father and a grandfather.

 

David was a proud father in fact, who would often embarrass his teenage son, when I came to visit, by introducing me to randoms in the street – and shopkeepers in particular (David loved corner shops).

 

David was a community GP in his adopted East End, but he found his true calling as a poet of course. A poet, a writer, an artist, a thinker, a listener – a good listener.

 

David was a schizophrenic, and that could be difficult and challenging for those close to David, and probably terrifying for my dad.

 

But David never hid from his condition. Instead, he embraced it. He embraced the identity and the community as a whole where, I believe, he found a sense of belonging and purpose.

 

David was a friend, a comrade and a counsellor who sought understand his condition so that he could help others.

 

A campaigner, an activist, a disorganised organiser, but at times a pessimist and a bit of a hypochondriac, who would often speculate on his own demise.

 

A forecaster, a meteorologist, a weather lover – particularly bad weather. A map lover – a passion inherited by myself and my son Sol.

 

A lone ridge-tent camper, a hill walker, a city walker, a Londoner, a lover of London – except perhaps Hampstead, though he did love Hampstead Heath and his mother Peggy. David loved his mum very much.

A dog lover, a gentle nature lover. David loved the countryside. A romantic. Tall, dark, handsome and hairy.

 

A product of the ‘60s: duffle coats, jazz, spoken word.

 

A feminist, a pacifist, a socialist, an anti-fascist, an anti-capitalist who was never really comfortable with money.

 

An outsider, a survivor, a soul searcher, a chess player, a park lover, a café dweller – both greasy spoons and the cheap Bangla kind, like Shalamar’s in Whitechapel. ‘Come over, I’ll buy you a curry’.

 

A one-time chain smoker, a nicotine quitter, a black coffee drinker.

 

A sweet-tooth: Fry’s Turkish Delight, Dundee fruit cake. Old Skool English flavours: Tiptree jam, Marmite, Cheddar cheese – and even a bit of cricket.

 

Scotland – flyfishing; Italy – Arezzo; Wales – the cottage; Broadstairs – Granny Emmie.

 

A geographer, a book devourer, a historian with a mixed identity: part Jewish, part Christian, part atheist, non-conformist, humanist.

 

A quiet agitator with intense dark eyes.

A lover of community and solidarity and First World War poetry, who sought to express and understand himself through his own writing – and perhaps, in some ways, to heal himself also.

 

David believed in, and practised, self-therapy through poetry.

 

Poetry, politics and mental health were at the heart of David’s true identity.

 

He didn’t shy away from the darkness. He embraced his conditioned and openly wrestled with it.

 

In spite of his schizophrenia, and perhaps also due to it, David lived a full, independent and rich human experience.

 

The past ten years or so have been good years for me and my dad and our relationship. I'm gonna' really miss sitting with him in his flat in Stepney and just talking about our shared interests and loves. I’m very proud of all that my dad achieved and I love him very much. Thankyou.  

Tom Kessel © 2022