The day started badly with the news that a good friend of mine from University had died. He had been ill for a while but he’d been trying out some experimental treatments and it was still a shock that we’d lost him so soon. I will write about him more at another time, because he is a man who deserves a heart-felt obituary, but I am currently processing the news and want to do it properly and at the right time.
Obviously this news shrouded my day and occupied my thoughts and made me confront my own mortality. Not that I need much help with that of course, but usually death feels like an abstract concept, something to fear but that doesn’t quite seem real and is, barring accident, somewhere a long way in the future. But today death is real and brutal and unfair. I tried to hug my children tight, but my daughter just told me to get off as she only likes to display affection with her mum. I couldn’t tell her that I needed to hold her, just in case I was ripped away from her, but I had to just make do with patting her on the head, which wouldn’t have left her with much of a memory of love were the worst to happen.
Life seems so solid and permanent, yet it’s precarious and unsympathetic and accidental. Like me, my friend had come to parenthood quite late in life and this is all just too horrible for those he has left behind. And of course it’s impossible not to project that tragedy on to my own life too.
Ah nuts. Too much.
The day went on as normal, because it has to, with a school run and a supermarket shop with the kids and hugging my snotty and bug infested son at night. But with the extra gratitude of being able to do these things. I connected with a few University pals to give them the bad news. Most of us will have another 20 or 30 years in the tank, I suppose. Some of us are just halfway through our association with each other.
We lost one of our number about 30 years ago. I thought of him and I guess will think of each of us that dies, each time one of us dies, until I am the one that dies and the ones that are left add me to the list. And the last one left wins the prize of empty loneliness.
There, then not there. I still can’t wrap my head round it.
I saw my friend over the summer and though I knew there was a chance that might be the last time we’d meet, I didn’t really believe it would be. Did I tell him how grateful I was for the things he had done for me? I don’t think I did. I feel a bit stupid for not doing that but I think he just wanted a normal day out where as much as possible we could forget about the possibility of death. I wrote a blog about him instead. I hope he read it.
I don’t think I ever thanked him face to face.
I am a prick.
Lucy Beaumont will be one of my guests for the Hull RHLSTP and tickets for two separate shows in Norwich (with different guests) in 2020 have just gone on sale