I heard the very sad and devastating news that a colleague I had previously worked with had recently died of cancer. He had been ill for well over a year and after finishing his treatment, sadly his cancer had returned and now it had stolen him from his loved ones.
He had such a friendly nature, he would always take the time to stop for a chat and say hello. He was diagnosed around the same time as me last year, and through a shared friend, we would ask about how one another was doing and pass our best wishes onto each other. I wouldn’t have described him as a really close friend, but we had a good relationship at work and we had an unspoken shared bond through our experience of having cancer.
He had served in the army for 22 years, and ironically had survived tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to be taken by this cruel disease in the prime of his life.
There were so many people at the memorial service – family, friends, comrades and colleagues. The crematorium hall was filled to overflowing with mourners who wanted to say their final goodbyes. You could see just how popular this man was and how many lives he had touched.
Emotional friends and relatives shed tears as they paid tributes and shared stories and fond memories of a much-loved father of two. He leaves behind a young wife and their two daughters. My heart went out to his poor family who are going through such pain and sorrow at this time. Life really is so bloody cruel.
Although I’m clearly overjoyed to be alive, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat guilty that I had survived cancer whilst my fellow colleague had not. In the beginning when I was diagnosed, I had hundreds of questions whizzing around in my head and I’d asked myself on more than one occasion “Why me?” Whilst paying my respects yesterday I also asked myself the question “Why not me?”
A couple of recent events have made it even more crystal clear to me that life presents so many ups and downs, traumas, sorrow and joy, happiness and sadness. In amongst the suffering and stressful times we must make the most of those good days, when the sun is shining, when we are healthy, when life is good and when we are at peace with ourselves and the world. The funeral was another stark reminder of how short life is and that we should grab it with both hands and make the most of the precious days that we have.
This poem by David Harkins was read out at the memorial service:
He is gone
You can shed tears that he is gone
Or you can smile because he has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.