A close friend of mine, an ex-flatmate, died this year.
It came as a complete shock. He was very young: not a lot older than 50 I would have thought.
I knew he was ill. We’d spoken on the phone about it. He told me he had stage four cancer and I asked what the prognosis was. He was due to go into hospital for an operation, he told me, and then they would commence with chemotherapy. His voice sounded serious but determined. He hoped he would be able to overcome the disease.
That was not much more than a month earlier. Obviously things had changed drastically in the meantime.
One of the customers on my round, a mutual friend, asked me if I’d heard the news? I said I had.
Now I think about it, the look on her face was telling me it was much more serious than I understood.
He must already have been in the hospice by then.
He lived with me for about two years. He’d been in the army and was the tidiest flatmate I have ever shared with. He had a cleaning business and would scour the kitchen and bathroom once a week in an intense burst of activity.
I never had to do any cleaning while he was sharing with me. I should have been paying him, rather than the other way round.
He was a genuinely kind person. He thought about you.
He was considerate, in more than just a polite way. He took time to really consider who you were.
He was around during the time my mum was dying, and was a great help and a supportive friend.
After he moved out he left some furniture and a cactus plant, and I moved into the room he had vacated. It’s almost as if I’m living in his room now.
What more can I say? I don’t intend to mourn. Every time another person dies I’m reminded how precious this life is.
Our duty to the dead is to go on living, with all the joy and fervency we can muster.
CJ Stone is an author, columnist and feature writer. He has written seven books