To paraphrase Forrest Gump, life is indeed like a box of chocolates – we don’t know what we’re going to get. It is full of variety, the human factor being the ultimate randomiser. In theory therefore, we should be prepared for this variety, good or bad. That doesn’t alter the fact that things happening which are unexpected, or that do not fit into some form of perceived “norm”, feel downright odd or just plain upsetting!
Between the ages of 17 and 36, I attended funerals for my grandparents and others (Aunts, Uncles and the like) of their generation. Both of my grandmothers reached particularly ripe old ages. Given the age I was and the ages they were, whilst sad, it was somewhere approaching what was to be expected. Fast-forward to mid / late forties, and the death of those of my parent’s generation starts to become a potentially realistic presence on the personal radar for me and those of friends a similar age to myself. Friends of mine have, sadly for them, lost one or both parents. My father-in-law, much loved and missed by those who knew him, sadly passed away a few years ago, and my stepdad died on Christmas Day 2017, after a year-long struggle with cancer.
All of this loss, or potential loss, falls within brackets of time and age where however sad it may be, it’s not entirely unexpected. The death of a friend however, only 35 years old and with two young children aged 2 and 7, a man with whom I’ve played rugby, drank beer, worked and socialised, can most certainly NOT be put into the same category however!
One Wednesday evening, I had been on a night out with some hobby gaming buddies and was sat on the train looking forward to going home to my family. My phone buzzed and I took it out of my pocket expecting to see a text message from my son, to whom I had just sent one. What I saw was a Facebook message from a former colleague, informing me of the sudden death earlier that day of my friend Scott Wreford. I spent the rest of the short journey home staring open-mouthed at the message and the reply I’d sent. Totally numb…a mate, younger than me, dead.
I just about managed to send a message to a mutual friend of Scott and myself, and one to my wife, and wander home in a daze from the station. It was a totally different kind of shock and sadness compared to older or elderly relatives passing away, as friends come into our lives in a different manner don’t they? As the old cliche goes…you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends. A LOT of people chose Scott…I don’t know a single person who didn’t like him.
The (standing room only) funeral and wake a few weeks later was a lovely send off for a great bloke, and even amongst the throng of strapping rugby players there was barely a dry eye in the house when Scott’s 7 year old daughter read a small piece about her daddy at the service. That in itself is an important point. Me and several others lamenting the loss of a friend is one thing, but there is now a household where a 2 year old and 7 year old no longer have daddy.
My point? Expect the unexpected…and when the wind gets taken out of your sails emotionally (and it most certainly did!!), briefly take stock then move on…whilst remembering the good times and looking forward to better. He was alongside me in the scrum the very first time I played rugby for my club. Years later he was a top boss and great bloke to work with when I’d been out of a job and needed one…and was always good company. Those that have passed away would not want us to be sad.
Cherish what and who you have whilst you can!
A brief epilogue…
In the midst of all of this, something happened that restored my faith in humanity. Totally trivial in comparison to the above, but some financial issues forced me to sell some hobby stuff and drop out of taking part in something at my games club (where I’d been the night I heard the news re Scott). My club friends who’d purchased it from me, then gifted it back, recognising that I’d had a tough time of late for a variety of reasons, with money issues and the death of a friend etc. Faith restored…and another thing to cherish!
R.I.P. Sweaty… #bemorescott