Never Say Die

Some people come into your life for a moment, a day, or for a lifetime.

It matters not the time they spent with you but how they impacted your life at that time.

Dear Chris,

I saw your name on social media and clicked on it fully expecting to see you smiling back at me. Instead, I saw an account remembering your life. For a few seconds, I wondered if it was some kind of joke?

Then I read your obituary..

At the age of 45, you were gone.

Our paths first crossed in 1981 when I started a new school. You were a lovely looking boy with twinkling eyes and a great sense of humour. Everybody liked you. Even the weirdos, like me. You made people laugh simply by being you. You didn’t pick on me like the rest of the boys and you’d never join in with the name-calling. In fact, you’d have a go at them and tell them not to be so ‘tight’ on me. That got you some flack, not that it bothered you.

I’ve never forgotten your kindness.

I never will.

By 1985 a friendship had developed between us. Not boyfriend and girlfriend. Just a two friends who shared a love of heavy metal music. You’d walk home with me after school and I felt safe when I was with you because I knew the others wouldn’t try anything while you were there. Some girls have knights in shining armour. My knight wore scuffed shoes and a blazer.

One of the first records I borrowed from you was Axe Attack which I played over and over again much to my parent’s annoyance. If I remember correctly, my Black Sabbath LP – Never Say Die – was originally yours?

When it felt as though the world was against me – you made a difference. You were a shining light in a very dark world – not that you were ever aware just how deeply I was affected by the bullying.

Nobody did, except me.

No doubt you continued to light up people’s worlds as you went through your life. You had a lovely wife and two handsome boys. I’m so sorry they’ve lost you when you had so much more to give. To lose you at such a young age is cruel. It seems so unfair that evil people live to an old age and so many good people die too young..

This is where I struggle with God.

This is where I question. why?

Why you?

You will always be the boy with the spiky hair and a twinkle in his eye.

That’s how I will remember you.

I can see you now – big grin on your face. 15 forever, eh?

I hope that your heaven plays non-stop rock music and you get to watch over your family until they can be with you again. When I eventually get my arse up there – be sure to say hi won’t you?

Chris, I don’t believe that we ever really die and so it’s seems apt to dedicate this record to you.

Thanks for being my friend.

 

 

 

Hello, It’s Me..

Everybody remembers the last conversation they had with a loved one before that person died.. It doesn’t matter if the conversation was in person or via the phone. It was those words, spoken or unspoken, that stay with you.

Princes William and Harry were holidaying in Scotland with their father when they last spoke to their mother. Diana was in Paris but she always found time to speak to the two boys who were her life. On the 30th of August she phoned her sons. William and Harry remember this last conversation as being too brief because they were eager to be doing other stuff. They were behaving as young boys do. They were not to know that in a few hours time the mother that they loved so much would be dead. That last phone call haunts them and I understand it because I too am haunted by my last phone call with my mother.

Death.

Death is tricky. Sometimes you get prior notice that he’s coming for a loved one. If death is inevitable, then surely this is the best scenario because nothing is left unsaid? The living can carry on comforted that they got to say goodbye and the dying can let go knowing that there is nothing left to say. That’s the kind of death I want. To leave on my terms. However, Death so often takes our loved ones without warning. There is no opportunity to tell them one last time how much you love them. They are simply – gone.

Death gave no warning about my mother.

The last time I spoke to Mum was the night before she died. I’d been in hospital having a procedure done under general anesthetic and I’d not been home long before she phoned to see how I was. I was woozy from the anesthetic and I just wanted to sleep so I fobbed her off and told her I’d speak to her the following morning. That was the last time I ever spoke to her. How could I know that she would be dead before I woke up the next morning?

Mum hadn’t been ill, except for a “bit of a tummy bug” which she’d mentioned in passing that week. The ‘bug’ turned out to be Bronchial Pneumonia. If she was suffering, nobody knew, because she didn’t say anything. She didn’t ‘do’ illness. Illness was an inconvenience which interfered with hair appointments. She couldn’t be done with it and in the end her stubbornness was her undoing.

What happens in these circumstances is that you replay that conversation over and over in your mind. You don’t remember the other conversations you’ve had with that person. You just remember those last words. You rewrite the script or at least you try to because you feel cheated or guilty or both. You feel like you are the worst person in the world because of that last conversation. You’d give anything to be able to go back in time and do it differently. To this day, I don’t remember if I told her I loved her. Normally, I would have, as I had ended every other phone call, but I was semi-sedated. I most probably did because I ended every conversation the same way. The problem is that it was often like reciting the Lords Prayer, as in, something that you say without actually thinking about it. You know?

My mother was no longer at the end of the phone but that didn’t stop me dialing her number. I needed to hear her voice and I knew where I could find her, for a little while longer, at least..

Hi, it’s me, I’m not here at the moment but leave a message and I’ll get back to you.

I lost count of how many times I rang number Mum’s number to listen to this message. Even though I knew that the phone was ringing out into a house which was no longer a home, it didn’t matter because it was still her voice and it comforted me.

Given the chance, our last conversation would have been very different. Then again, there is a belief that things happen for a reason. What if I was to go back and hear something in my mother’s voice which alerted me to the fact that something was wrong? What then if I was to intervene only for the outcome to be that for the rest of her life she was frail and dependent on others? If you knew my mother you’d understand how much she’d have hated that. As hard as it is to lose someone, if we look hard enough, we will see a blessing in some form. Sometimes we just need to look at things from their perspective instead of our own.

It’s unrealistic to treat every conversation as if it’s the last you will ever have. Life gets in the way and with the best will in the world there are always going to be occasions where we have to cut conversations short. However, no matter how brief a conversation may be, there is always time enough to say the only thing that really matters.

“The news of life is carried via telephone. A baby’s birth, a couple engaged, a tragic car accident on a late night highway – most milestones of the human journey, good or bad, are foreshadowed by the sound of a ringing.” Mitch Albom ~ The First Phone Call From Heaven

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