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.