Jack Nichols' letter upon death of his partner Lige Clarke

Original Format

Typed letter signed : 4 p.

Text

February 22nd
1975
Today is Edge's thirty-third birthday. ¥ou may not have
seen him today as closely as I have, and since there are rumors, I'll
tell you what I know about what he's been up to and' how he's
been.
Some think that Lige was mowed down on a dark Mexican road
near Veracruz; that crazed bandits emptied an automatic round
into his ^oody as he travelled the open road. Weil, that's true.
That happened.
Lige left hare {"here" being an oceanfront condominium we'd
shared since early November) on February 7th in Charlie's car-With
both Juan and Charlie. Juan had just returned from a two-year
stint in South America and was trying to orient himself to the
U.S. with a visit with Lige and me before he headed north. Charlie
lived on the same floor of our condominium complex. We'd known
him jointly since January, and he'd just finished working a
taxing job end was anxious to travel, it-seemed, and to learn. He
knew that Lige had a fierce urge to travel. He had a car, he
offered his friendship to both of us, and Lige jumped at the chance
to take a jaunt to Mexico. Charles did not die in the hail of
bullets. He was injured, both in feeling and bodily, but hot
permanently I hope/
Lige didn't have much cash, but he was always eager to see new
places, cash or no. He took only a few clothes, the materials
for the book he'd been working on here, and an extra type^A'riter.
He'd, always wanted to see the east coast of Mexico and he must
have driven very fast to get from Cocoa Beach, Florida to the
Verajjruz region in so short a time. Juan decided not to accompany
Liee and Charlie to Mexico and boarded a plane for Washington, D.C.
in Houston, evidently feeling more oriented after a rapid transit
ride ana" ready to face his adopted country once more.
My last months with Lige had been "V.'hare Peaceful Waters Flow"
as Gladys Knight might have sung it. (The most recent record album
Lige listened to intently was Imagination by Gladys Knight and
the ?ips.-) - - oh - - - he was also humming and singing Honeybee
and Reach Out recorded by Gloria Gaynor. ) He decided suddenly,
as he often decided things, to take the Mexican trip. But he was
^aiming to expand and so I was happy for him. "I'll' go down the
coast of Mexico and'find us an inexpensive place to live during
the economic, collapse," he joked,"! may be back in a week. Will
*you send me' busfare if I get stranded?15 "Sure," I smiled back.
Our last moments^were perfect moments. Happy. Undemanding.
Concerned only fojr each other's well being. He'd done quite a
bit of nursing. I had the flu in December. His aunt Monte had
gone into a Miami hospital at the end of January. But while he
was here in Cocoa Beach, he'd run on the beach, work on his book,
swim, cook, and catch those rays — sweet mother sun. He'd
stopped smoking for the second extended time. I was working on a
book too. We fed each other ideas. He told me about his travels.
Since Lige had always dreamed of world travel, he worked his way
around the globe Mftvilfi'&fj bQ countries in Asia, Africa, Europe,
and South/North America aboard a Norweigan cceanliner. He'd
brought home little gifts or sent cards and letters to his loved
ones everywhere. "The seas of the world," he said, "are like
many colored jewels: turquoises, emeralds." During the time he
travelled (January to August, 19?^) I was ir. Cocoa Beach writing
my first major philpsoohical work which I had dedicated to Llge add
which he had read carefully and. helped proof and collate upon
his return. It xvill be published in May and is full of lessons I
learned from Lige which is what the dedication says, in effect..
The book is called "MSN'S LIBERATION: A New Definition of
Masculinity." Its 31c uages will tell you what many of our conversations
were about in recent years.
Llge has been a very wise man. lie has been a guide whose own
cuo was overflowing, a man who save to others. To each man or woman
who loved him I am sure he is say ins: today, his birthday, what
Walt Whitman (whose eyes were similar to Lite's) did:
Whoever you are, now I place my hand unon you, that
you be my poem.
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
I have loved many women and men, but I love none better
than you.
Many strange things happened before Lige left, but I will tell
you just two. We had two large towels between us, both of which Lige
had bought on his world trio. One was a plain brown. The other
was a towel of many colors, which I am sure that he left not only
for me, but for each of those whom he loved. The word "Love" was
v.rinted all over the towel and he said, "Here, take this. I'm
taking the brown one." It was his way of saying, "You may have
the oretty one." Lis-e left here that Friday afternoon his face
wreathed in smiles. He seemed almost ecstatic. The Open Road was
before him, and there was not « troubled line in his face, \-ihen
he left there were no regrets, no serious concerns. We would see
eech other soon and he knew, as he always seemed, to know
InCtlvely somehow, that there is a fit balance in the universe
;.:;'.; defies apoearances.
One of r.ipre's recent gifts to me (here in Cocoa Beach) was the
soundtrack of :Jinnochio (from the film.) Often, when we've been
out at ni.crht, Li^e (since we met) always first stooped and scanned
the heavens looking: for the earliest star, and he would close his
eyes to make a wish. "What are ycuV* wishing?" I'd ask. "I can't
you," he.'d smile, "because if I did, the wish might nob come
true." finnochio's theme scner is "When You Wish Upon a Star." Do
• know the words to that son:-r? If not, listen bo them carefully.
They will tell you (in part) what Li-re believes and how he lives
his life even now, I should think. I have never seen him
hesitate to make his dreams come true (never, certainly because of
financial considerations or because of security.) He taught me
that I must trust my first instincts more fully and yet neither of
us, certainly, always took the jrood advice we dispensed on
avery occasion. But we tried. Lise tried. Kis heart was in his
dreams, as the Pinnochio theme suggests. I am sure that Lise save
nothing to me that he did not "give carefully to others." "When
You Wish Upon a Star" is a preser." for you too, I am sure.
3-
February 23rd
1975
I promised yesterday to mention only two of the strange things
that have happened recently. But today something else hapoened..
Ten years ago, when Lite's mother died in the hills of Kentucky,
I took him to see "The Sound of Music" the night the word had come.
He liked the film, he said, because the principal character treated
children much as his^o^her had treated him and her other children.
Lige's extraordinary. Snelbianna, had. seen the film and thought
likewise.
Today, a week after another funeral took place in the hills of
Kentucky, two wonderful friends who have kept me close company,
fortunately, during the past two weeks) took me to a film. (I speak
of films because Lige was fascinated by films as an art form.) One
of my comrades suggested that we go and the other paid for the
three of us. The film was an adaptation of a book by Antoine
de Saint-Exupery: The Little Prince. Look for yourself in the film,
if you are fortunate enough to see it. You will wonder about
"The Little Prince". Who was he? You will see yourself in the film
and those near you. I am sure that if Lige were to see the film
or read the book with you himself he would, say, "You__are the
Little Prince." One becomes what one absorbs. Lige was absorbing
constantly. Ons that fateful night in Mexico he was carying, as
he usually d.id^ three books: Leaves of Grass, The Prophet, and The
Voice of the Silence. He loved, each of these books simply because
they expressed a nature akin to his own, a nature which is like
yours. That is a secret which he knew about you, even if icsxai you
did not knew it. But I am sure that if Lige showed in some way that
be cared, for you, that he didn't keen it a secret either.
Hare, before I tell you about the real life experience I enjoyed.
at a funeral in Kentucky last week, let me quote some words from
"The Little Prince." (You know how I am about quoting good things
don't you?): It could be Lige speaking to his loved, ones:
"And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you
will be content that you have known me. You will always be my
friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes
ooen your window, so, for that pleasure."
Now, about this funeral in the hills of Kentucky.- It was the
supreme expereicne of my life thus far. It was hard, yes, but
all of us scot done what needed to be done, and it didn't seem very
hard. Lige's hometown is a magic spot (isn't everyplace?) with a
copulation under 1,000. Old friends were able to attend from several
far away cities (Lige's hometown is isolated in those southeastern
Kentucky hills). The reason that the spot seemed magical to us
was that its inhabitants sholred us that those who reach out and love
are loved in return. Lige's funeral was the most profound exchange
in ecstatic communication that I have ever experienced, far surpassing,
even, our "Rocky Mountain High" when we spoke together at the 26th
Annual Conference 0$ World Affairs (University of Colorado, Boulder,
1973) and met young peoole who enchanted us with the good we sav; in
them. But the beautiful oeople of that mountainous Kentucky region
taught your stand-ins at Lige's funeral about the
k\
natural goodness of men, particularly if they are left alone to grow by
themselves.
Prudy, a beautiful country woman, one of the most beautiful 1 have
ever seen, told of how Lige had given her a copy of The Prophet. But first":
she sang about "an uncldudy day'1 and I am certain you can remember at
least one day when Lige touched you on such a day, can't you?
i
a Pm&j was preceded by two parsons, both of whom were very brief. She !
^Jsaid only a very few words, but they captured an essence. She said:
o A"I remember Lige as my Third Son. He was the friend who shared in i
£ X3° the many "little boy" adventures of my son, Jimmy, and later in the
V6 teen age escapades of drag-racing, girl chasing, and just plain j
3 ^v* having fun. I
^ r c-j Lige was the extra family member for the holiday meals. It was not I
~>> comolete without his impish grin and his small love offering for me —.
-~N^r which could be anything from a duck to cook to a bag of candy from I
i ; V tiis daddy's store. (
^J He was truly a dreamer; artistic, sensitive, curious, and a chaser *
^ N S after rainbows. He was always searching for what lay just over the
"T/K horizon. He was ever in search of new adventures and new places.
?y •~": Lige1 s faith in a Supreme Being was very firm. We have discussed this !
i many times. His gqjd was a loving God ~- one who met his children
0 with a smile, not an angry, fearful God.
As a small boy Lige put his Bible in the corner stone of this very
H church. If he were here, I feel he would say, "No sad faces; I am
not dead. I have jast started on the most wonderful adventure of them
ail. SXraile - for 1 am just away."
i
-> .
^ At the graveside i found myself translating the scripture into my own
jidiom, and I'll pass on to you what 1 thought; "Be not afraid.. In
jmy father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you."
2It was raining as the mountain folk climbed with us to the hilltop graveside
<Lige would have worried that some of them, not quite strong enough, were
bothering to make the climb. But they did climb. They seemed determined.
"Someone at the graveside asked me if I wanted a rose. A thoughtful
>gesture. But no. Not this time.
Now, I thought, the "Whispers of Heavenly Death" have never sounded so
loud before, and yet neither had life with its precious, fragile beauty
^caused such new amazement. I hear new whisperings, and while Lige's
ispirit was unique it tells me that he is also everywhere where there are
'sentient creatures who are willing to climb, where there is good counsel,
lifting: us to new heights. Can you hear his oft-expressed thoughts? I
can. He's saying%"Breathe deeply, ten times perhaps, and then be
continually conscious of your breaths. If you're hyper, breath-consciousnes
will help you set a new pace." Next he'd say, "Don't waste useless time
in fruitless speculation. There are unanswerable questions. I raise them
myself. But do what you can do now to make the best of a situation. "There
Is nothing that haopens but that it can be turned to beautiful results."
Those of us who loved Lige while he occupied his bod.y know that1 we can
still love him in everyone we meet, no matter the face, the age, the sex,
•or the station in life. "I will have no one slighted or kept away," he might
|have said. We know he couldn't have been stooped by a mere spray of
bullets fired automatically by poor unfortunates on a dark Mexican road. The
"latest word Is that the unfortunates have been apprehended and that Charlie
is returning wounded to ^.^.»3335SH£^1sS5S# North Carolina to recuperate. ^ f Bj
*&86t Lige was reading the writings of Peter Kropotkin (18^2-1921) and was
expressing strong disapproval of the treatment of prisoners. I am making
no judgements myself. Others, who feel cheated, may. *•*•!•••••••••*

Citation

<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=39&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=Nichols%2C+Jack">Nichols, Jack</a>, “Jack Nichols' letter upon death of his partner Lige Clarke,” Rainbow History Project Digital Collections, accessed May 30, 2024, https://archives.rainbowhistory.org/items/show/120.

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