The Draft Games Begin

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

England is such a wonderful place, with kind and considerate people and the loveliest landscape. I rediscovered that on our trip to England for the burial of my brother Ken last week. Ken, 64, was a resident of the country since 1983 with his wife, Jane, who hails from northern England, and children. Ken died suddenly two weeks ago while on a walk with Jane.

I thought I would take a few moments to tell you about the funeral and my experience on the death of a second and last brother in four years—Bob died in 2010 of a heart attack—and the banding together of a community to help Jane. To me, it indicates there is still so much good in people, and I guess I’m a hopeless optimist and think things like overwhelming goodness are still possible in our world.

Ken and Jane lived first in England in a village called Kingsclere, about an hour west of London, in the area where the book “Watership Down” is set and the TV show “Downton Abbey” is filmed. Then they moved to another village 70 minutes north of London called Denton. He died on a visit to Kingsclere, and Jane decided that is where he would be eulogized and buried. It is a lovely little place, with a charming English pub called The Swan and a musty 1,000-year-old Church of England church, and a high hill with long footpaths where sheep graze and horses run overlooking the village. That’s where Ken and Jane used to take seven-mile walks.

On the weekend Ken died, he and Jane had been staying with their close friends Alison and Mark Wray. The Wrays took in the rest of the immediate family, joining Jane. The rest of us, there for a few days, stayed either in rooms above The Swan or in a nearby hotel. My wife, Ann, and sister, Pam, came from the states, along with Ken’s very good friend from William & Mary, Tim Groves from Cambridge, Mass. We’d gather during the day at the Wrays’ home on a quiet street (every street in Kingsclere is quiet), up to 22 of us from around Europe and America, crammed into the dining area and spilling into the kitchen, and Alison and Mark would put out a dizzying array of food that they worked all week to prepare. “This is what friends do,” Alison said. “I wouldn’t want Jane to be anywhere else at a time like this.” Spinach-lentil-and-feta pie the first day, either meat or vegetable lasagna the second day, either asparagus or tomato-and-onion quiche the third day, and the toasts with the merlot and the Old Speckled Hen, and the fresh bread, and the pasta salad, and the conversations with people from Spain and Connecticut and Massachusetts and England … well, I wish the dinners of two hours had lasted four. And I wish we had more than one evening at The Swan, where the Bowman and the Theakston and Guinness—with no TV, no music, just conversation—flowed.

“Where ye from?” said one of the locals at the bar.

“New York,” I said. “The city.”

“This must be prettih slow,” he said.

“I love it,” I said. “Love your village.” Which made him happy.

The bar’s 11-year-old black lab, Jake, burrowed into us for some of our crisps. (Potato chips.) “Jake! No!” the guy at the bar said. Jake lay down and waited, hopefully. He got lucky only once, with one dropped crisp.

(Left to right) Peter King, with brothers Bob and Ken, in 1978. (Photo courtesy of the King family)
(Left to right) Peter King, with brothers Bob and Ken, in 1978. (Photo courtesy of the King family)

Jane’s an organizer. Last Monday, the women of the family and the village gathered at St. Mary’s Church to prepare the old place for a proper funeral. Kirsty, the partner of the Wrays’ son and a florist-in-training, brought seven buckets of fresh flowers, and the women made eight bouquets to place on the walls, four on each side, and large arrangements to greet the mourners at the entry of the church and more in and around the pulpit. The church hall was prepared for a reception afterward, with large photoboards of Ken’s life arranged by his son Adam. (One of my favorites is the King boys, with neckbeards, from 1978. Unfortunately, you can see that one here.) Everywhere I looked were neighbors from the village, scurrying about, making the church as homey as a centuries-old church could be made to look. Six, eight, 10, 12 villagers, there to help, to do anything Jane or Kirsty asked. They just came. Mark and I delivered the funeral wreath, made in the Wrays’ garage that morning by Jane for the top of the light pine casket, to the tiny funeral home.

Jane and Adam spoke at the funeral, stupendously and emotionally, never faltering. After the service, we walked eight-tenths of a mile to the cemetery, where six men in black suits lowered Ken’s casket into the ground. The funeral home wanted us to go in hearses; Jane said she wanted to walk, because she and Ken walked everywhere. So we walked. The cemetery, wind-whipped, is on a hill that overlooks a soccer field and much of the village. It’s where Jane and Ken buried their stillborn daughter, Sally, two decades ago. Ken and Jane were walking to this place, to visit Sally’s grave, when he collapsed and died, and so it was right that Ken would be buried here. The vicar said some nice things, and invited us to throw dirt onto the coffin if we wished. A few of us did. Jane threw Ken’s sweat-stained three-decade-old Yankees cap (he was a very serious Yankee fan) on top of the casket. And then we walked back to the church hall.

On the last full day of his life, Ken went to a wine-tasting and bought a case of pink champagne. So of course the 80 or so folks who crammed into the reception toasted Ken with the champagne he and Jane, both retired, would have used for their Champagne Friday tradition. As the last of three King brothers, I did the toast, clumsily. I was grateful for a squeeze on the left arm from Jane when I faltered at one point. I just wanted her, and everyone in the room, to know what a full and happy life Ken lived, and how incredibly grateful the American side of the family was for the goodness of the British side, and how Jane so generously had enriched all of our lives.

Afterward, Jane wanted to walk the Watership Down route, the seven miles she and Ken so often had walked. So a group of 18 of us went out, including Ken’s 14-month-old grandson, Thomas, alternately on my back and the backs of others, and on a glorious afternoon we trod the seven miles they so often did. We walked the walk, Ken’s walk. It’s one of the prettiest places in the world, full of high grass and acres of yellow flowers and green pastures and birds I didn’t know. On and on, and I never thought, Lord, I’m tired. When are we going to head back?

I’ll always remember the day, vividly. It’s the kind of day every person would hope for at the end of his or her life, in the kind of village where every person would hope to be remembered. A perfect day.

I just thought of one more thing: Adam, and Jane’s brother Steve made a soundtrack of 53 songs Ken loved for the reception and as a keepsake. As the mix played after the last dinner at the Wrays’ home a few hours after the funeral, I noticed one of Ken’s favorites was playing.

“When I’m 64.”

***

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138 comments
REH913
REH913

hope they cancel The right reverend Dion Sanders accusing the Eagles of racism after the release of Djax. I guess he never heard of Mike Vick or just recently the 31 year old Jason Peters who is black and had a few minor law infractions. They are so racist they gave him a 3 year extension. By the way do reverends get a tax exemption? 

StanLa
StanLa

Don't get too high on U-Conn. I heard they were going to invite a student to play next year

help4mac1
help4mac1

Had a heart attack on 1 Feb and was lucky a woman who was very good at CPR was passing by in her car. I ignored some symptoms and was otherwise very healthy. The doc told me only 10% survive something like this. If you need a stent Mr King, get it.

TexasDoorman
TexasDoorman

Mr. King,

I hope you will find some peace after the loss of your brother.

I have two brothers, both living, that mean the world to me. 

Your words about your loss resonate with many of us.

I thought about you and your brothers and me and mine.

That is a compliment to a writer. You made me think. 

You made me appreciate.

Best wishes to you. 

leonardosobe
leonardosobe

Let me guess............. most will be Felons by the time they depart the NFL.

wlewisiii
wlewisiii

I'll stick to NFL Yesterday and keep the money in my wallet rather than Goodell's thankewverymuch. 

dennis
dennis

Recently, I've been worried that Goodell would take away free NFL on TV as a way for him to satisfy his greed for more money. Still worried, even after the interview. Don't trust the commish after the false 50,00 pages of evidence and what he fabricated against the Saints. And Peter, that photo of you in 1978 proves you were a non-football playing nerd. The one thing missing from your writing is the inside knowledge from the point of view of a man with the passion to succeed at a violent sport. For you, risk-taking is trying a new coffee.

joebdox
joebdox

Peter,


Thanks for mentioning UCol's victory in the NCAA hockey championship. But have your editors lose the (N.Y.), OK?


It's just UNION, like Yale or Harvard or Stanford or Baylor. Would you say Bosox (MA) or 9er's (S.F.)????

dawgpoundgal
dawgpoundgal

I believe the whole Alex Mack situation was caused by his agent, not Mack.  His comments before and after Cleveland matched the Jaguars offer seems to support that.  His agent was just looking for a bigger payday.

IdDoHannahStorm
IdDoHannahStorm

I saw Savage play several times this past season.  He was a bright point in the usual mediocre Pitt football offering.  Given that he played well with a terrible offensive line and so-so receivers, he could do well in the NFL. 

tonybot3
tonybot3

C'mon now Mr. King.... Mack can't be upset by Cleveland.... He's the top paid center in the entire league. Cleveland was ready to pay him that money even BEFORE the Jags stepped in, via the transition tag.   Its not like they were holding out on the guy.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Aldon Smith will remain on the 49'ers roster until he is arrested and put in jail. They are an organization that has sacrificed everything for a winning record. The league will have to be the ones that take action, if any is required. 

FootPrints
FootPrints

PK not getting to over, but I'll say a Rosary for you in all happenings..

BenjaminSargo
BenjaminSargo

Heres a revelation...........  of the 1st 100 picks..maybe 3 will be white.

Jim21
Jim21

My condolences to Peter King. I have to say though, I liked MMQB beetter when Greg did the column. More concise and just football. It was refreshing to say the least. 

Scramble
Scramble

Brown's fans will be thinking why aren't we making the playoffs with a 9 mil a year center, yet the Ravens let a 7 mil a year center walk and won the super bowl with a 3 mil a year center. How many ways can Brown stain their fans.

David G
David G

Mr. King, It will be interesting reading to see what you will write about Aldon Smith.  That coupled with the Von Miller story in Denver.  Beginning to look like teams need to really check the on players stability away from their teams.  I thought Von messed up pretty bad.  Smith makes Von look like an amateur.

HorizontalGophers
HorizontalGophers

Peter,

It's been an emotional time - pop a tall one, turn off the world and catch last night's episode of VEEP. Best one yet and the best favor you could do for yourself. For what it's worth. 

WR2

tojo45
tojo45

Beautiful piece on the services and events.   I'm sorry for your loss.  

GeorgeLovell
GeorgeLovell

Peter I'm so sorry for your loss.  It seems like your brother had a good life and was loved by many people and in the end, that's all that really matters.

ReadIt
ReadIt

Anyone else's office get a little dusty reading this? Sorry for your loss PK, great to see all the love and support your family has from both sides of the pond.

ashoreinhawaii
ashoreinhawaii

My brother and I were having a conversation about how the NFL never allows itself to portrayed in movies, how overprotective they are of their brand.

Along comes "Draft Day." From the reviews I've read it appears to be one big commercial for the NFL and ESPN.
No interest. Bad enough I have to endure Chris Berman, and all those other not-funny braying jackasses on ESPN - Herm Edwards, et al.

JohnMatuszak
JohnMatuszak

peter king was seth rogen before seth rogen was seth rogen

Milldog13
Milldog13

Condolences on your brother. Some of your best writing regarding your time in England. Felt like I was there. Glad there were so many to help ease his wife's burden and to help celebrate his life.

delmail333
delmail333

Clowney will be the #1 pick & worth every pennie of what ever he signs for ( think millions ) & the Texans Owner is also a USC Grad which also helps !, Johnny Football should have stayed in school, I mean 2 years worth will not take him far ( And this was after being schooled in his Dorm his last year ) & not in a class room .

He'll get killed in the NFL, Just watch !

Plainview
Plainview

Peter King and all of his brothers in that picture remind me of Mungo Jerry.

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

It’s what the NFL wants but more mock-drafts & “need to know” about the biggest crap-shoot, market push in America, a dice roll that more often than not come up snakes-eyes, even for prized 1st-rounder draftees, we “need” like we need more Super Bowl hype in January.   We’d all do better in spring spending more time on the already ares & weres. 


As for Rolapp’s TNF sell: until they stock it w/ some top-tier tussles, in vintage Texas lingo, ‘that dog won’t hunt.’  Football is king (no pun) but even monarchy can wear thin.

JamesPate
JamesPate

Don't get me wrong on my comment, I love all sports and wish I  could have  somehow  played in all of them. I did alittle football  jr. high and high school . Point being i never was any good . My comment is,  over the yrs. now how come the players   being drafted are Afican-American, you hardly see any white players( afew playing). It just seems too me the white guys quit playing. The same goes for NBA and baseball. Don't get me wrong if you play ball of any kind, God Blessed you with it. I know i sure  wished I could have, the money is. good ,but too play is BETTER.I don't want any drama just interested.

MikeBailey
MikeBailey

It seems to me that Tom Savage has Jeff George written all over him.

Mike26
Mike26

@leonardosobe  What a winner YOU are!  You're right:  99.99% are felons when they leave the league.  

Mike26
Mike26

@dennis  "False 50,000 pages"....time to accept the reality that your thugs messed up dennis and move on.

joe1025
joe1025

@joebdox There are Union Colleges in other states, so they are distinguishing it from those. It's the same reason they always use Miami (FL) and Miami (OH) when reporting football scores.

Mike26
Mike26

@joebdox  No, it's Union, NY.  You're a tiny college no one's ever heard about before and won't again.

andye2007
andye2007

@Jim21  Seems a bit callous to mention that in the the same message containing your condolences.  

Buck2185
Buck2185

@Plainview Peter looks like someone you would want to keep away from your children......

Bruce Poff
Bruce Poff

Hey James! Ur wrong about whites & blacks in MLB ! Only 8% of the players in MLB are African American! Better recheck ur research numbers! LoL

Wombat
Wombat

@JamesPate  I don't know... but I did notice recently that I see no kids playing outside in middle America any more. Perhaps it is partially a symptom of WOW and Facebook? Heck, I have a kid that has "texting dates"? What the bleep is that?

clt0002
clt0002

@MikeBailey  People were fawning over George. That's not really the case with Savage. They just love his arm. 

JohnMatuszak
JohnMatuszak

@MikeBailey  i don't see that..George was the #1 overall pick wasnt he? highly touted as the strongest arm ever

brettwolfe
brettwolfe

@Mike26 @joebdox  Well, Mike,smart people have heard of Union.  It's a top 50 ranked college.  And the Dutchmen are not a One Hit Wonder.  They've been to the Frozen Four 2 of the last 3 years.

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