The Book of Love

When do we really die? That was the question Grayson Perry set out to answer in his Channel 4 TV series on ritual a few years back, and it stuck in my mind.

As a humanist celebrant, I had already reached the same conclusion; we only die when we’re forgotten and not loved anymore.

Portrait by Stephen Willis

Lenny Love who was one of my oldest friends died earlier this year. Like me, he’d had a long and very unconventional life and he spent the last 8 years of it as a celebrant, so when he said he wanted ‘to do a David Bowie‘, Grayson Perry’s question came immediately to mind.

I got together with some of the other people who knew him best and loved him most, and we quickly agreed that we’d have a farewell party on his birthday, but I wanted to do something else as well.

As a celebrant, I rarely get to meet the people whose funerals I conduct. In fact, in the nearly nineteen years I’ve been doing this, I’ve met fewer than a dozen, and it’s a great privilege. The only good thing about Lenny’s last painful months in hospital was that it gave him the time to tell me his story, which I wrote down and – once he’d checked it over and approved it – I circulated it to his closest friends.

At first, I thought that’s all I would do, but the outpouring of love after his death convinced me that there was a bigger story to be told. 

When I said as much on Facebook, the designer Scott Fraser got in touch and offered to help. 

Over the next three months, we pulled together stories, photographs and other media from dozens of other friends, colleagues and associates and created The Book of Love.

On Lenny’s birthday last month, we gave him the best party he never went to at The Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh, and it was a great success.

I was really pleased when broadcaster and author Tom Morton decided to dedicate an episode of The Beatcroft Social to Lenny’s story and you can listen to it here.

The Book of Love was a labour of love. Scott and I gave our time without charge, but I still had to pay the printer to get it published. We sold about half the print on the night, but there are still a few copies available, so if you’d like one, please click here. 10% of the cover price will go to Asthma + Lung UK, the charity that works with people suffering from COPD, the disease that ultimately took Lenny’s life.

One thing’s for sure. Lenny will not be forgotten!

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