I was fifteen years old, full of teenage angst and being forced by my parents to go to a New Years Eve party that apparently would be “fun”. I was shy then and everything about being forced into such a social setting with virtual strangers sounded like hell on earth to me.
But life sometimes deals you the most unexpected card at the strangest of times. I left having made some new friends but feeling that something significant had happened. It had. I had made my new best friend and found a true soul mate. A fifteen year old, slightly quirky, very funny, handsome boy with bright blue eyes and curly hair and a bit of a rebel.
A week later at school a letter turned up for me from him. So began our magical, completely unromantically attached friendship that saw us both through drama, respective girlfriends and boyfriends, parental woes and much more.
He taught me so much about life in our short friendship. I learned the true value of a real friend. He saw when I was unhappy if he thought it would help, he would sit on a swing with me and just talk until it was so dark we had to go home. He sent me Valentine cards knowing that I’d be upset if I were the only girl who didn’t get one. I heard some home truths from him. When I lost a huge amount of weight and became anorexic he turned to me and said “you know, I think you looked a lot better before, but if you are happy then so am I… but I don’t think you are.” He wrote me an entire book of poetry. He would cycle 17 miles to come and see me for a cup of tea when I had no transport. He took me on a charity bed race where I was pelted with eggs. He taught me how to drive on his father’s farm and when I crashed the car our punishment was to serve tea at one of his father’s business meetings. I learned about animals through him and the countryside. I learned how to windsurf or to attempt to. On my 18th birthday when I was at secretarial college he stayed up until 4am the day before learning how to bake a cake and make it look like a typewriter. When I was sent to Switzerland to au pair he wrote every week and we plotted how he would collect me from the airport and not my parents. Then I decided to go travelling with some girlfriends and he lent me his tent and was so patient in teaching me how to try and put it up. I would buy all his girlfriends their Christmas and birthday presents. I think it’s safe to say that none of them liked me very much! We were best friends in the truest sense.
Whilst I was in Europe travelling I had my luggage stolen and lost everything except my money, ticket and clothes I was wearing. My Mother sounded very strange on the phone and asked me to come straight home. I distinctly remember saying that as soon as I got there I wanted to go to the farm and explain about the lost tent and fill him in on all our adventures. It was a little surprising to be made to promise not to call them.
Of course not all stories have a happy ending and this is where mine takes a turn I wish it didn’t have to. But the reason I was asked not to call was that my best friend, my soul mate, the one person in all these years who just “got” me had died.
I wasn’t around to be able to say goodbye to him at the funeral. It’s so very hard not to be able to say a final goodbye to someone who is like a part of you. I didn’t believe anyone… until I went to the farm. I saw the diaries he had kept and how much he had written about me and how important our friendship was to him. I left there that day having been strong for his parents but a complete wreck inside.
I was eighteen years old. Part of me died with him. I have tears rolling down my face as I write this and re-live some of the incredibly happy times but also remembering the raw grief that I had to go through for years afterwards. I panicked for so long afterwards when I couldn’t visualise his face or remember anything but the fact he had died. But time is kind in a way and pain may not die completely but somehow we realise we are coping better.
I am a far better person for having had him in my life but we all lost such a special person far too soon. The world was a richer and more colourful place with him here.
Put simply… I miss him still and we are almost at the thirty year anniversary.