12 years ago I text you to see if you wanted to go to the snooker club, sink a few beers and watch England play Ukraine in a friendly, little did I know then it would be your last night with us. Initially you declined the offer as you had agreed to go to the cinema with your brother but mid afternoon you changed your mind and accepted.
I remember heading down there talking about some random stuff as you had recently lost your gran and your brother and mum I think had visited a spiritualist. We spoke about whether we felt there was anything after death and like me you said no. Although we promised to let one another know if there was when our time came. I have reflected back on this night so many times. We had a good laugh, I 8 balled you in pool for the first time ever and we laughed lots. You asked me a question I will never forget “What would I have wanted played at our funerals had I died in my car accident and you when you had your first brain haemorrhage” I refused to answer, we had both worked so hard since they happened with each other to help aid our recovery. You with your speech therapy and me with my physical therapy.Eventually we agreed to answer the question together and at the same time said it can only be one thing “Stand By Me” – It was a song we always put on the jukebox at the Snooker Club and we always used to watch the film with your brother and mad Ben as he was known to my parents.
You’d kept me sane, you’d kept the darkness away from the door and the times I spent with you, Ben and Ben will forever be etched in my memory (even if those etchings are somewhat blurred from alcohol), Stand By Me remains to this day a song and film that makes me laugh, cry, reminisce and miss you in equal measure. We spoke about growing old together and our families playing together and this was all taken away in the early hours of the 19th August when you passed away.
I have played that night over in my head so many times, I wonder if you knew something wasn’t right and that was why we had the conversations we did that night. If you did, why didn’t you tell me could I have done anything? Why did I put my phone on silent so I didn’t hear your brother call in the early hours? These are questions I will never be able to answer. I can however answer the question is there life after death. For me it is a resounding YES. I may not visibly see you laughing at me when I do something stupid, or when me and your brother are laughing about some of the things we did, or when I watch my Wedding DVD and listen to his best man speech, or when I sing Stand By Me like nobody else in the world matters, and when I talk to my LG about you but I know you are still with me. You live on in me and every person you touched (don’t laugh at the rude implication of that, I know you are Jamie stop it!) we all remember different things about you, we all learnt different things from you and our lives are all richer having known you.
I thought after you had gone that your brother blamed me, it wasn’t until his speech at my Wedding that I realised he didn’t. We never spoke about it, I think we both missed you so much we just couldn’t talk about it for a long time as we didn’t want it to be real. What? Oh yes that’s right that woman D you met at one of your infamous BBQ’s a few months before you died we are married (9 years this December) I did finally settle down and have that family I always wanted. We are happy living in the only place I could ever call home, in Wymondham, just around the corner from your brother. We do not see each other as often as we should, that Mr Weatherhead who I used to speak to most Fridays in class (and to his class) now no longer travels up from London most weekends and the glue that kept us together has gone. I miss you and the friendship so much but I am as guilty as anyone else for not seeing one another as regularly as we did.
Life has changed for us all, but the times we had together can never, and will never be taken away. I will however make sure that I make more of an effort to see Ben more.
From you, more than anything I learnt to never give up on life, to fight for what is right and to live life without worrying about what others are thinking of you. Any man who can order white wine spritzers and Vodka and Redbull at the snooker club is certainly his own person. We fast forward 12 years from the worst day of my life and I find myself writing this to you. So much has changed, the world has gone social media and blog crazy and I know you would have loved it and hated it in equal measure. Unfortunately my back has worsened considerably and walking now is incredibly painful meaning it is wheelchairs and mobility scooters for me, I’m sure you’d love it and make me laugh in it. Stupidly it took me years to accept that things had got worse and stubbornly I refused help. I am now accepting of my situation and I guess this is an important step forward for me. I haven’t given up, far from it, you taught me to fight on, and on and on so that isn’t what has happened. I accept help now from others, I embrace the aids I have and the adjustments I have made to carry on.
Our son is 19 now and has been working at a major insurance company for a year now, he is doing very well, learning several types of insurance and we are very proud of him. Being loved up we do not see him very often but he has turned into a lovely young man. I wish he’d have joined us for beer and snooker. Our LG is 3 going on 13 and she makes me smile every day, even when the pain has me close to tears she has a way of making me laugh. I will be burying boys when she grows up. This morning knowing what today is she brought me a toy first thing and said “daddy this is for you and your friend Jamie so you are not too sad today” again very proud of the caring LG she is.
Although I do not work anymore I now volunteer in Wymondham, I have set up an Access Group which is beginning to take off and I am taking on the big guy with the town council. I think you would have loved to see how much I have been in the news recently as I have been protesting to save KHM, you know that park that has been there for decades. I am also fighting for Wymondham to become an accessible town for people with disabilities and parents with pushchairs etc. It has given me a real purpose and zest for what is doing right and that is what I learnt from you.
I do not know if you are waiting somewhere for me, if you are I look forward to partying hard with you when my time comes, if you are not, but you can see me I hope I am making you proud, if life after death is you living on in others you really have succeeded in that with so many people.
It is true that I miss you incredibly, I think of you often and I remember the things you taught me. I am proud you were my friend, my brother, my partner in crime and with me in my life even though the amount of time was cut far too short. Life goes on, and there is a permanent hole where you once were, you are forever in my heart, my mind and my soul. I look forward to having a beer with your brother and mine this evening and we will make sure there is one for you too.
Love you legend!