Beyond Goodbye at Southbank festival – a review

Here’s a great review from our friend Jack Nathan about Jane and Joes talk at the festival of death for the living …………………………………………….


Attending the ‘Everything you always wanted to know about funerals (but were afraid to ask)’ session was always going to be painful. I went in dread and ‘excited’ anticipation as I knew I was going to hear from two panel members, Jane (mother) and Joe (brother), talking about surviving the profound and still raw grief of losing Josh: a young man lost to an arbitrary event, euphemistically labelled, ‘a road traffic accident’, thousands of miles from home, whilst on a ‘trip of his lifetime’ in Vietnam.

As if already foreshadowing the distress, we were told that Jimmy, his father, and sister Rosa, were not going to be on the panel, but in the audience: talking about ‘it’ was, well, too much, of course.

And yet exhibiting a courage (or was it stupidity!) I could not imagine in myself, Jane and Joe graced the audience by allowing us to gain even the tiniest insight into their experience of Josh’s death, the funeral and life ‘Beyond Goodbye’ (the title of the film depicting Josh’ funeral of which we saw a short extract).

It is a curious experience writing about the event because although it was a collective moment (in fact 60 of them, it was an hour-long session), at the heart of it lay a paradox: namely, just like funerals, each and every member of the audience had a distinct and deeply personal experience. I will therefore be sharing, in effect, only my own idiosyncratic associations. The first, takes me back to the intensity of the insufferable grief. Not as a deafeningly ‘noisy’ cry from deep within, but a quiet, equally painful instant, captured on those two or three occasions when Jane would ‘passingly’ mention the loss of, ‘my son, Josh’. It was not so much beyond goodbye, as beyond words, and so all the more gut wrenching. Put more simply, I ‘found myself’ crying. I can’t say anymore about this.

The second personal dynamic related to an issue that was raised by a question from a member of the audience, who braving a rather difficult question, dared to speak of getting over ‘it’, Joshua’s death, in fact any tragedy. Jane spoke from the heart reminding me of the alcoholic whose only path is to ‘take it a day at a time’. Again that hurt. What so surprised me was Joe’s response. It was as if I was listening to a mystic sharing his wisdom. Over the top I know, but especially given his tender years (30, perhaps), I was taken by his description of his experience as like Jane’s, but also slowly, slowly, slowly, finding what he called “different levels of acceptance” as time passed, with the inevitable ‘collapses’ in between. Joe managed to convey both the horror and also the possibility of ‘beyond goodbye’.

To them both I will be forever grateful for allowing us access into the unimaginable.






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