Today, the funeral of Vitalis Katakinas is being held in London. I can’t make it, but Vitalis and his loved ones are definitely in my thoughts.
He was an actor, a poet, a playwright, a biker, a sportsman, a father, a lover, a charity fundraiser, a friend, a positive spirit and influence for many. He was a beautiful man, with a beautiful fluency and affinity with sign language to match, and had talent pouring out of his deaf ears. The world is poorer without him.
I remember him at Deafinitely Theatre, attending workshops with him, watching him perform in the showcase, and watching him in Love’s Labours Lost. From royal intrigue to Shakespeare, he took it all in his stride.
I remember chatting with him, and being impressed by his smile, his can-do attitude and his confidence; when he moved from Ireland to London, one of the first things he did was go straight to Deafinitely Theatre with his acting CV.
He certainly didn’t hang about and wait for life to come to him – he went out there and took it by the scruff. He was a good foot taller than me, and he may have looked ‘tough’ with his hair and his leathers, but was always sweet and kind, the proverbial (to little me) gentle giant.
I remember he came to the Bristol BSL poetry festival a few years ago, and we worked together in one of the poetry workshops; his ideas were gold.
I’ve been looking at some of his poems, which are still available on the Metaphor in Creative Sign Language project website. I especially like ‘Graduation’, where he takes on the perspective of one of the University of Bristol’s oldest buildings. His command of BSL was – at the risk of repeating myself – beautiful.
I remember seeing him, alive and well at BSL day in London just hours before he was injured. He looked good. He still had that hair and that smile. His injury and his death a week later, having never woken from the coma, was unbelievable and tragic. How could such a strong guy, with such a zest for life, be comatose, be dead? It didn’t make sense then, it didn’t make sense when I was tying some flowers to his memorial tree and it doesn’t make sense now.
I don’t think it ever will. All I can do now is to repeat and reinforce the message that was on his memorial tree: one punch can kill.
I have no doubt that his funeral will be extremely well-attended, as will the gathering afterwards. He had a positive impact on so many lives, and I know I’ll always remember him. He had the soul of a poet. I’m sending lots of vibes and prayers for Vitalis and his loved ones; I hope all goes as well as it can today, and he gets the kind of send-off he deserves.
This poem by Ramas Rentelis perfectly sums up Vitalis and how much he’ll be missed.
Donations can be made at vitalistribute.wordpress.com.