About three weeks ago I was sitting with my godparents and my friend Charlie. We were talking about a fairly new diner in town that does fantastic burgers, and I jokingly asked if they’d deliver as far away as I live. Quick as a flash, my godfather told me we should arrange a takeaway and eat round their house. It was a moment of unthinking generosity absolutely typical of him. He was living off tomato soup at the time, but was just happy for us to be with him. We had popped into the hospice for a quick 15 minute visit, and ended up staying an hour longer. At the end I gave him a hug, told him I loved him and would see him soon, and off we went. I didn’t see him again before he passed away last Friday.
I’m not ready to talk about him in the past tense yet. I doubt I’ll be able to do so for a long time yet. He is such a huge presence in the lives of many people, with a personality that cannot be diminished merely by dying. Even after so long fighting cancer, that hideous blight on humanity, it was a genuine shock when I received the phone call from my father. Part of me thought he would pull it back again. It would be wrong to say that he’d lost his battle, because he kicked cancer’s arse. It was the most one sided fight anyone is ever likely to see. Every time he was given a finite time frame, he beat it. He deserves his rest now, but cancer will be curled up in a ball somewhere, licking its many wounds and hugely regretting starting this fight.
It makes me smile to know that everyone who knew him are quietly discussing their favourite stories of him. I was reading on Facebook one of my friends talking about a legendary zoolander-like dance off between her husband and my godfather at my wedding. It is a huge regret that I missed that, having already left for the hotel. Oddly enough at their wedding I did get to witness a joke-off involving my godfather and another friend. I was near crying with laughter as the two of them shot joke after joke at each other.
This is not a eulogy. There are others far better placed to write that, not least his two sons that I am honoured to call friends. You could not hope to meet a nicer family. I have known them my whole life; have spent days, weeks, and months in their company. As a child I spent many a school holiday with them, and our families occasionally went on holiday together. Some of my happiest memories were spent with them, and my godparents were huge influences on me.
My godfather finally helped me conquer my fear of cycling without stabilisers with his gentle coaxing. He also helped me not to take myself too seriously. I was an overly sensitive and annoying brat as a kid, yet he had a way of getting me to laugh at myself. When my friend and I were going after our cookery badge for cubs, we made steak and kidney pie round his house. I was a fussy sod when it came to food, and inevitably I hated it. I dealt with it in my usual calm manner, by throwing a strop like a prima donna. My godfather picked up the plate, and started eating. “Yuck… eurgh… horrible,” he said, as he ate forkful after forkful. Even I couldn’t help but laugh.
There are so many great memories. After fussing over us children steering a boat along the Norfolk Broads one holiday, he took over only to almost immediately hit the bank. My dad was following him in the car on another occasion, and had to laugh when my godfather veered in and out of the cones on the way into some services. His explanation, “It said use both lanes”, left us all in stitches. My overriding memory will always be of his laugh. He had the most infectious laugh I’ve ever heard, and it never failed to lift my mood when I heard it.
It seems trite to say I will miss him, but I will. A world without him in it is a greatly diminished one. He leaves us with such wonderful memories filled with warmth, love and humour. It is rare to find someone so universally loved by those who knew him, and we all know just how special he is. These last few years were a gift to us all. He fought with such determination, courage and dignity. It would have been easy to give in, but that is not his way.
Simply put, those of us who know him are far better off for having him in our lives, and we will remember him to the end of our days.