Monday, 1 August 2011

Drew Leavy

Drew Leavy loved life. He picked it up, found the fun in it and played with it like a bright joyful toy. As an improviser he would push himself to the limits of spontaneity, enjoying in-the-moment creativity over well-worn gags or stock characters. And he had a knack of finding laughter in the unlikeliest of scenarios: mirthful supportive laughter, not aggressive, cynical laughter. In his photography, he used the same talent for picking out and engaging with the most lively and interesting characteristics of his subject. He had a geeky encyclopedic knowledge on all sorts of topics, because he was genuinely interested in and intrigued by life in general. Above all, he was funny.

I remember sitting with him in the Phoenix Artist Club when he first told me about the recurrence of his cancer. The humility and stoicism with which he treated this personal tragedy was overwhelming. He said he had so much to be grateful for – not only the fact that he enjoyed relative wealth and comfort when a large tranche of humanity is born into abject poverty, but the fact that he was doing the things he loved, surrounded by people he loved. He refused to become the victim of his misfortune. He considered himself ‘a lucky sonofabitch’.

Publicly, he kept up this positive, jokey attitude throughout the horrendous trials and upheavals of the final months, though it is only fair to assume that his afflictions were at times hard to endure. When people praised his strength of spirit, he would say: ‘I’m not the one having to make the difficult decisions. It’s Susan who's the strong one.’

In 2009, my marriage fell apart and for a while I allowed myself to slip into one of those spells of depression that has plagued my life intermittently. I believed I had failed at the one thing that mattered most to me, and lost the one thing I had made a public promise to preserve. The future seemed intolerable. But whenever I considered Drew's unordinary bravery and humour in the face of infinitely bleaker odds than anything I had to put up with, I felt encouraged, and even invigorated.

A few months ago, I wrote Drew a little message, just to let him know how much he had inspired me. I want you to read his reply:

I’m glad if I was able to help in any way when you were having such a hard time. But it sounds like you have a pretty good handle on things Michael. You are a very kind young man and you now know that no situation, no life is irredeemable. I’ve found out in the last week or so myself, that the measures that truly spell out success in life have nothing to do with the ones I thought I had fallen short of. Take care and I hope I will get a chance to see you down the road.
Drew xx

I will always treasure these words, and keep smiling – and laughing – at many joyful memories of Drew Leavy.

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