In the final months of 2011, my thoughts were filled with very happy memories of a wonderful Friend I hadn’t seen for over 25 years who I found was now frequently on my mind with such fond and fun memories. We met in our early twenties, the best friend of my then boyfriend. We all went out together in a group. At parties, my Friend and I were the only ones still dancing and singing at daylight whilst everyone else had crashed out on sofas or the floor! We didn’t want the fun to end and we had enough energy for all those who had tired or gone home!
Once, at a rock disco in Wales, we were dancing when a fight broke out between two men who’d been to a football match. The dance floor cleared and I suggested we sat down too, but my calm Friend said: “No, nothing’s going to stop our enjoyment,” and, whilst shielding me with some remarkably well-choreographed dance moves with the greatest of ease, and our spontaneous dancing completely uninterrupted, he reversed into the inebriated pugilists wafting them to the side as someone casually sweeping dust and debris into a corner, much to the amazement of all onlookers and me!
Yet, this story was not unusual for him. He was as strong as an ox but wanted to enjoy a peaceful life. I’d been told by his best friend even more remarkable stories of superhuman strength where he’d defended them both against a gang of about twenty skinheads who had decided to pick on them with jibes and threats having invaded their quiet country pub. My Friend’s tolerance ran out with their irritating comments and invited them into the car park. He used one as a battering ram against all the others. He was fearless. He didn’t want to have to fight, it was an inconvenience to him, but he refused to allow others to disrupt civility.
He was a gentle giant, a gentleman and a gentle man whose propensity to erupt with hysterical laughter matched my own – all qualities I loved and respected; and still do.
Our lives took different directions and I heard he became married and had a child, but he later contacted me to meet up again with our respective families, but it never transpired, sadly.
All the recent persistent happy memories in 2011, made me determined to make contact again and catch up with our lives and reminisce.
So, during these months when my old Friend was always in my thoughts, I searched Facebook, Google and other networking sites hoping to find a link, smiling all the while with anticipation at future laughter we might have when we met up and talked over all the events that had happened in the interim. But to no avail. There were many people with the same name.
After lunch on 1 January 2012, the day before we travelled to visit my parents, I found myself enthusiastically telling many more wonderful stories about my Friend with a great big smile on my face! It was extraordinary, how he was very much present with me.
When we arrived at my parents’ home the next day, I was browsing through their Christmas cards as usual to see the lovely messages they receive each year, when I came upon one that included the sentence: “Dawn may remember JF, who died a week ago of cancer aged 54.”
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I would like you to know, JF, my Friend, that I remember you so well with such beautifully happy memories and that I’m so glad our paths crossed ever so briefly all those years ago. I wish I could have seen you again. Thank you for your presence in my life and for your great enthusiasm and generosity of spirit. I love you.