Editor’s note: Staff Reporter Marshall Smith writes on his personal relationship with former TC staffer James Larkin, who died last week at the young age of 39.
Can I see another’s woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another’s grief,
And not seek for kind relief?
William Blake, Songs of Innocence
Family. Families of birth. Families of choice. Fathers, mothers, spouses, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, colleagues. Family.
Family is the cornerstone of our lives, the continuing bond that steadies us, grounds us and defines us.
James Larkin carefully and preciously carried his family, celebrated them and loved each day of being with them. He was defined by his family.
For James to die suddenly, without warning at age 39, is a tragedy that touches each of us. For with families of our own, we understand this wrenching loss and feel kindred grief.
The groundswell and outpouring of support for James and his family — Rachel, Opal and Jasper — shows the depth of love and respect they engendered. For, as a family, they glowed with positive light and creative energy that warmed the space around them and made daily life a little better for all of us.
James was part of the Town Crier family from 2004 until 2013. He scrupulously performed a variety of jobs — proofreader, typesetter, subscriptions — with rapier wit and sparkling intelligence. And, for me, he was a critical part of my transition into becoming a newspaper writer.
Each week he proofed my articles as I was struggling to learn the proper form for writing for a newspaper. Each week, after proofing my articles, he would give me a list of words he either believed I overused, used incorrectly or should not have used at all. I think he thought, at least at first, that I was not serious enough about my job or lacked the talent to perform it properly. Nevertheless, I saved each list and posted it on my bulletin board near my desk. Each week, I waited for the next list, which he never failed to provide.
Certainly there was genuine chastisement and instruction in each list, but there was also a degree of merry humor that became a bond between us. The lists helped smooth my way into a new work situation and reminded me how important each word is. And James’ lists made me think and made me laugh. They were carefully prepared, well-thought out and never frivolous. The days he gave me his lists were good days, days I looked forward to, and days I will remember.
By the way, James would not have approved of my using “rapier wit” or “sparkling intelligence.”
In the end, with James’ sudden death, words are just that — words, and no matter how heartfelt or well-intended, they are inadequate. His death, now at this time, is beyond one’s ability to understand. We are left wondering how this could happen and what we can do.
Love. Love is what we can do. We can come together in love to honor James and his young family. For, as family members and as a village, that is what we do. And it is what James would have wanted.
donate/general to contribute to the James Larkin Memorial Fund.