Sometimes, if you are lucky, you meet someone who improves your life a little. You don’t always know how or why, you don’t have to know them very well or for very long, you don’t even need to see them that often. But somehow you just feel better for knowing them. They make you a slightly better person in some inexplicable way. It’s like a bond. A touchstone or touch paper or something – stand back and watch the sparkle.
What am I talking about? I don’t know really. I’m not one to sentimentalise or gush and my cynicism can be a hurdle, but that sparkle can happen. It did for me for a while.
Last night a friend that I’ve only known for only a couple of years passed away suddenly and without warning; an unexpected and terrible shock to everyone. I heard about it through Facebook and it came like a blow to my stomach, I think that they call it a gut punch. It was immediately saddening although in total I only spent a few hours with this guy over the two or three years I knew him. We just chatted, nothing special, we never even went for a pint together. Not much of a friendship you might think, but there was a connection when we met even though we thought very differently about many things. He was the nicest of people so he probably had that effect on everyone, but he made me feel good.
His ridiculously unwarranted unfair death reminded me how impermanent things actually are. There’s been a spate of celebrity deaths this year, unexpected to those not in the know at least, but this death was different. It was unexpected by everybody, even his closest family. It may sound trite, but he was here one minute and gone the next and then forever and ever and always. It makes me feel cold. It makes me feel hopelessly sad at the desperate uncertainty we all live with in every moment.
To say that he was a good man, a kind man, a man to completely trust doesn’t capture anything of the person he was, and I didn’t even know a drop of who he was really. Even so, I often found myself wishing I could be more like him in his approach to things and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have by my side in a fight or at a party. I never asked him for anything, but I know that if I had asked he’d have given it to me as I would him. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but I don’t think so. I’m no fool and I know the genuine article when I see it, as I can just as easily spot a fraud. He was the genuine article and I’m proud that he liked me enough to give me the time of day.
So to me as always. The doctor keeps sending me letters. He wants me to see him and get some checks. Frankly I’m not interested in the lectures that will come as a result or the round of hospital appointments that will inevitably follow. Frankly I don’t give a toss that if I don’t stop doing this or start doing that I might not live forever. His job is to keep me alive, rather than let me live my life. My job is to live my life as well as I am able and try to enjoy the time, however long or short, that I have left. Being kept alive simply to be alive isn’t really of much interest to me. So, sorry Doc but I don’t sign up for a long, long life, if I can’t do as I please along the way. There is no point to that.
I knew by the twinkle in Graham’s eyes and the warm chuckle in his voice that Graham’s life was lived well and he revelled in the joy of it. My path is different I think, but it’s my path and I don’t need directing along the way, I can sort that out for myself because ultimately, despite my doctor’s advice and threats, we are all going to the same destination.
See you later mate, I’ll miss you.