You were my friend, and a better friend than I realised. You were everybody’s biggest fan. You would talk about me to anyone who was interested, and I’m told you would speak with pride about my writing, my research, and my activism. In my own eyes, these are at best but minor things, but you were proud still, proud of any and every little thing I achieved. I wasn’t alone in this. When I saw you, you would tell me stories of other friends of ours, and how well they were doing. Even if they were completely in the hole, you would pick out an ounce of something worth celebrating, run with it, turn it into a pound.
There wasn’t an ounce of flattery in you. You fully believed in the praise you were giving. You were a loyal supporter of all you admired, from shitty punk bands from New York bedsits to friends who had fallen upon hard times. Too loyal, some might say, but you’d give people hell if you thought they had it coming. You could cut them down to size in an instant – you could be cruel. But when I saw this, you’d usually be defending a friend, or calling somebody out on some bullshit – a myriad of which you must have heard in your short time – and some things you made sure to never let slide.
You were a constant in your later years, a fixture in that cigar shed, a face I knew would be welcoming me in if I was passing through town. From talking about The Smiths on a DT school trip, to singing along to No Surrender together this December, for over a decade you would always appear and (only now I notice) you would always brighten my day. In that way, I took you for granted, and it was only this week that I realised that I missed you more than I knew. I too often wish that I’d shown you but a pinch of the support that you had there, waiting for me. I wonder if there was anything you needed that I could have done for you. I think about the last time we spoke – without romanticising it, it was an absolute pleasure – and I remember you telling me how you were climbing back up and putting your passion into something wonderful. I think about how much you still had in store to give us, and my head drops into my hands.
Where does that leave us, those who said goodbye? We carry grief with us – it’s immediate for months – and it usually scars with the passage of time, rather than heals, in a reminder of what we have lost, and of our love which continues in your absence. But that is not all we carry with us. The support you gave me; that was free, and that is permanent. I will carry that support with me, I will harness it to fuel everything that I do, to recall your belief that our talents should not be spared but spent completely on the betterment of everybody’s lives, and I will continue to try and make you proud for as long as I live. It’s the very least I can do.
“You were a kindness, when I was a stranger.”