Sunday, 13 September 2009

Ten years on

A little under 10 years ago, our friend Tim died.

He was just 36, fit and healthy and simply dropped dead while out mountain-biking with some friends. He left behind a wife and twin 6 year-olds.

I will never forget how we learned of his death. We had just returned from one of our European road trips. As neither of us had a mobile at that time, we had been incommunicado for the week. We walked cheerfully into R's parents' kitchen, gifts in hand, all smiles and wanting to talk about our holiday. His Mum had a very serious look on her face and just said, "Tim's dead".

I remember vividly that feeling of confusion. It didn't make any sense. There had to be a mistake somewhere.
We had both lost grandparents and older family friends, but people our age didn't just die like that. We were young. We had a whole future ahead of us.
It was wrong. So wrong.

Tim's widow, Ali, was incredible. Less than a year later, she stood in for him as Best Man at R's brother's wedding. In a strange twist of fate, R was also asked in to stand in as the Father of the Bride. It was a very bittersweet day. I remember thinking how brave Ali was as she stood up and gave her speech. Now I know that it has nothing to do with bravery - just a deep-down need to do him proud combined with clenched muscles and feelings, fending off the emotions long enough to get through it. And a whole lot of tears in the privacy of her own room afterwards.

I've just had a letter from Ali. She is planning to mark the 10th anniversary of Tim's death with a small get-together, and is asking for friends' memories of him to include in a book she is planning to make with the children for them to keep.

Somehow this reassures me.
Even though I know that my own memories of Tim are still very much alive, and I think about him often, I have an irrational fear of R being left behind by the world and forgotten. A few years back, Ali found a new love to share her life with and we were all very pleased for her as she is the sort of person who has lots of love to give. But her gesture shows to me that whatever happens, whatever future paths our lives may take, our lost loves always stay with us.


  1. what an eloquent gesture. i have to agree with you, about being reassured that our loves stay with us.

    i had to give the toast to my daughter at her wedding yesterday, the one our Dragon, her stepfather, would have given. her father didn't want to say anything. i admit i wasn't as brave as your friend, Ali. tears did fall a little. my voice did break once. no twice.

    and i, too, worry that my Dragon being forgotten by everyone but me and my two children, but then his life in the Marine Corps was mostly secretive. still, he lived and lived well.

    i feel sure though that with the friends you write of, neither R nor you will ever be overlooked or put up on a shelf. there will always be warmth felt in the saying of your names. there will always be smiles in the eyes of those who remember him, and phone calls to you and drop bys who come to sit and visit with you. i don't know why i feel this in conjunction with you, but i do. i just thought i'd tell you. if not for anything other than i am out here, unseen and practically unknown, but with that single thread that connects us all who write of our grief and fears here.

    peace always

  2. J - I agree with WomanNShadows completely in what she has written in her last paragraph. I haven't even met you, but I just get the feeling that neither of you would ever be forgotten by those whose lives you have touched. You have given me a lot of comfort by sharing this post, thank you. Recently it has felt as though Cliff is moving further away from me, and I have been filled with fear ... fear that I am starting to forget little details and things about him, and that in the end, it might be so distant. That really frightened me. Now I feel reassured because of you and your friend. Again, thank you.

  3. I cannot add anything to what womanNshadows and Boo have said because they have so eloquently stated what I thought as I read your post and tears streamed down my face. It is amazing how the three of you are always here to write about things I'm thinking about or worrying about. You all bring me a feeling of companionship and camaraderie that I am so thankful for. Take care of yourselves this week.

  4. Precious memories don't fade, not really. They just become more precious.

    That said, fine detail can seem less important, since it's the essence of a person which stays with you when they are gone.

    I used to worry that I would forget. But I really haven't. Hardly a moment, or even a single freckle on the back of her hand.

  5. J - I was OVER THE MOON to see your blog mentioned on Roads' "Blogs that Roar". I felt so proud of you ... and was giggling to myself, I KNOW her :-) Well done, and I'm not in the least surprised.

  6. Thank you everyone for your wonderful, compassionate words, I can't tell you how much they have lifted my heart today.
    I don't think I realised how much the remembrance aspect mattered to me until I started writing this post, and it helps so much to know that other people are feeling the same.
    It is so weird how things that I don't really realise are bothering me seem to surface as soon as I start typing.

  7. Yes J, blogging really is good for working through your thoughts, fears, emotions, isn't it?

  8. This is so true, you never forget powerful real love and even though you don't you're still allowed to find new love. I'm happy for Ali and your post is beautifully written

  9. Hello Silindile and thank you for dropping in and your kind words.
    And you are so right, there is always room in our hearts for another person, even if it does not feel like it right now.