Life and Death

Come July this year, the miracle of life that was bestowed upon us will cross the 24-month marker and continue steadfast, for what we hope will be the rest of our lifetime. Within the allocation we have left we hope to see many things, not least of which is a healthy little sponge of knowledge, surging onwards resolutely and syphoning every single thing she can from this ultimate one-way trip. We hope to see an enthusiasm bursting with promise; of exciting new experiences, new places and new people. I hope to see a return on our investment of at least £3mil…

What I don’t hope for, in any descriptor, is to have the light of our lives extinguished before our withered candles have burnt their last scrap of wick. A concept incapable for my brain, already mis-firing repeatedly, to grasp.

Whilst we were rubbing our hands at the Fajita & Wine Friday stalwart laid before us, smiling with pride as Miss. lapped up her baby-fajitas with glee, thus bringing to a close the food protest that had been playing out all week; my friend, my oldest friend, was blinking his eyes one last time and recording his final frame.

A few miles away from our position stood two beautiful people, who for 32 years had not one but 3 miracles of life; who had also hoped for all these things as I do now, and in many ways watched them achieve a whole lot more. Now they had to face up to the unfathomable reality of losing a child.

To use the word devastated to describe my emotion would be a discourtesy to the real feeling of devastation that his parents are experiencing at present. I am profoundly sad.

I first met him when I was 6 or 7 years old. I am now 32. When we left High-School we both studied the same course at University, sat next to each other in the studio and meandered through 4 years of excessive play, some work and a bona fide life experience.

He had a demanding personality; very astute and effortlessly charming. He spent most of his day winding people up, not for the sole purpose of yielding a reaction, but to connect with them; to engage in fierce debate for the benefit of furthering the collective nous. He could tweak the very sternest of nerves with ease, hoping that an equal could rise up to meet him in his quest for a good old ruckus. One minute he’d pluck from absolute oblivion the most pointed retort imaginable, whilst the next pulling your nipple just to watch you wince; and he’d stand firm ready for the reply, yet none would arrive. Because like it or not, despite all my best efforts to look impassive to it all, the truth is his capacity for both intellect and irreverence was intimidating. I’d rather shrink and avoid the likely possibility of being outdone and outsmarted, than face up to the challenge and potentially succeed.

So now, as I sit and think about him and the uncontrollable trajectory of life, I am transported back to the moment we all stood in our gowns and caps with promising futures and the world laid before our feet. I look around my friends, remembering their faces; remembering the impact they had on my life and each other. I see him and his tall water-polo frame; that woolly rounded face and the cheeky expression of fearless confidence. I can’t help but think how he might feel knowing he only had 10 years to go; how any of us would feel, knowing they had such little time left. A smouldering swell of fear grips my very core. He did everything right – worked hard, played hard, loved and flourished. He challenged everyone to better themselves and in doing so bettered himself. If someone like him – the ignition spark in a sea of coal – can be taken in a fleeting moment, what does that mean for the rest of us?

The last thing he wrote to me was back in 2012, just before my wedding. He said that as long as I had enough courage and whisky, things would be ok; perhaps the latter would help the former. Sage advice. We fell out of contact after, both busy building our own paths and I guess the omnipresent memories of days past made it feel less important to re-establish a line of communication. I wish I had. His departure from these, at times miserable plains, serves to remind me of how I must not let preventable things become permanent things. Change the tyres on the car instead of riding them to the bone. Don’t get upset that money is tight or that I didn’t get much sleep. Life is worth so much more than that, not just to me, but to everyone around me.

He will be sorely missed by all.