We buried the father of one of my closest friends last week – I say “we”, but you know what I mean.
I’d not known that John had been ill and in truth I’d not seen him for a long time.
As a result, when I did during the autumn of last year I’d simply assumed that time had been no kinder to him than to anyone else and that he had merely aged somewhat.
In reality he’d been fighting a battle with cancer which, sadly, he was not to win. Rest in peace JP.
It’s strange how much you don’t know about someone until they have left you for good. Then, the personal reminiscences start to emerge.
The stories of younger life, military service, business, family and more come flooding out from people, not simply because they want to jump on some bizarre mortal bandwagon, but perhaps because by telling those stories the storytellers can contribute something positive to the sum of everyone else’s experiences.
It’s as though a great book of tales lived out by the deceased is being compiled because of each individual teller, who can then add something to the overall picture. It certainly was the case with John.
Although I knew a reasonable amount about him, it was only because I had grown up with his sons at school.
One of those sons is, as I have already said, one of my closest friends and even now, well over 35 years since we first met, I meet up with him and a couple of equally close contemporaries to chew over the events of the previous month and put the world to rights.
We’re well on the way to being Grumpy Old Men I suppose, but none of us recognises the age that we have actually reached.
Each of us has stories about the others in our group from our early teens to the present day and I love them as the closest thing to brothers that I shall ever have.
Theirs are the friendships that I shall take to my own grave and if I survive them I will take great delight in telling their stories with both pride and maybe some impishness too.
Thanksgiving services are strange things. Sometimes there’s a coffin in attendance, sometimes not.
Another of my close friends – one of the same school group – took his own life while we were all in our mid-20s. I cannot begin to describe the pain that we all felt at the time.
Mixed in with the sense of loss was a real anger – and shame – that he hadn’t found himself able to confide his troubles and share them with us.
At his service there was so little to say because he’d really not begun to live his life – he had no experience.
It was such a waste and thinking back now I wonder what he might have achieved, had he stayed with us.
Ultimately I hope he found the peace he couldn’t find while with us by exercising control over the life that he lived.
In John’s case the litany of achievements which his eulogy detailed was quite breathtaking and what’s more, he seemed to achieve in almost every aspect of his life through application, hard work and his own values. Those values now live on in his boys.
When my own father died I was in my 20s and I recall his funeral service for which I wrote the eulogy. I hope I did him justice as John’s sons did.
We shouldn’t wait to celebrate someone’s achievements when they’ve departed. Do it now!