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A tribute - Open letter to an old friend

Today is the funeral of one of my best friends. We haven't been close for years now. But the effect we had on each others lives has been dramatic. I was unsure about whether to post this or not. It's quite personal. But since this is more or less a personal blog, I wanted to write this open letter to him out in the public domain, maybe for catharsis. because his life meant something to me, and deeply shaped my own, despite how far apart we ended up. He wasn't necessarily as sentimental as me but I'm sure he'd appreciate this. So here's to you Banfield. No regrets, and all love.

Thoughts and prayers with everyone at the burial today.

Dear Lee

I thought I might struggle what to write here. Sometimes it seems easy and sometimes I just can’t find the words. I’ve been trying to work out if there was anything left unsaid between us.

Probably a lot. But then maybe that’s always the case with everyone.

So here are some things I’ll say now, and try to get as close to the truth as I can. Even if they only serve to reach that part of me that is you, that might be enough. After I heard of your death, which was a shock, I mourned for two days. I cried for you, deeply and sincerely. I think I mourned a lot for you over the years. And for the end of the friendship that shaped my young adult life. It’s hard to wrap my head around how different my life would have been had you not approached me with the prospect of Asia. Had we not missed that train in Leeds that night that sparked your decision to come to New York with me. So many pivot points that lead us to where we ended up. And so many alternative histories the mind boggles, almost to the point of futility. Because the only history there ever is and was is the one that played itself out, and so thats the only conversation worth having.

When we went our separate ways there were things I wished I knew how to articulate to you back then. I couldn’t explain the kinds of transformation process I was going through. It was deep. I had no context for it. This I feel sad about.

We’d become so intertwined through our adventures and that that had to end was something hard to swallow. It took years. And in the back of my mind, until last week was the faint notion that there would be some day of reconciliation.

After working through the idea that any of it was personal, there was a genuine respect for your decisions and the way you lived your life. You followed what was important to you and lived out the things you held as values to the best way you knew. You followed your path, made difficult choices and there’s so much love in me for you that you did.

We each walked our paths, and that we each were no longer a part of that for each other was sad, but ultimately authentic. I had many “water under the bridge” themed dreams featuring you over the years, there was a sense that internally all had already been reconciled. And that we were just biding our time until the day we’d be backslapping and planning for the future again. The things you don’t know about life.

I wish you would have stayed in touch. But then again I wouldn’t ever have wished anything that wasn’t true for you. Towards the end of our time together, there was a sense that we were talking to the ideas of each other we’d built up over the years, instead of the actual person underneath. Conversations were strained, and felt oppressive enough to warrant a long and deep divergence. I guess somehow I just figured the future would find a way.

I remember the last time I saw you, and the last thing you said to me. I was heading back to the UK, you said you’d be back in October, a few months away. You never came back. Even as you were saying it, I remember something in me knowing you wouldn’t, I think you probably knew it too. You never really know the last time you’ll see somebody. And maybe of the many gifts your life gave to me, in death, this is one of the greatest: the understanding that life is way more brutal and short than most of us have the courage to really contemplate. And that you simply don’t know when the last time you’ll see someone is. This is a truth to hold close now, because within it is an injunction to action; Treat people as if it’s the last time you’ll ever see them. As if it’s their last day on the planet. Speak the truth to them, be articulate as you can, give them the kind of love, warmth and kindness you’d want people to give to you if it was your last day on the planet, and be real.

I’m so glad I had the chance to meet you, that I had the chance to live and grow with you, that you gave me some of the craziest, funniest and greatest memories I have to date. I learned and grew so much from our time together. You had this uncanny ability to keep focused on things, followed up with diligence, and insight. This kind of awkwardness, as if you didn’t quite fit into the world, and didn’t care, because the world just didn’t quite understand the value of things that you knew to be genuinely important, they were too busy focusing on the frivolous, while you had worlds to conquer. You adopted as your mission to go out into the world and set that right. You had an unparalleled sense of adventure, a kind of unapologetic authenticity, and a genuine care for what mattered to you, while letting everything else, like whether your t-shirt was on inside out, or whether people liked you, simply slide. It was an admirable quality. That’s just Lee, we’d say. Because it was true. You were unique. Nobody will ever be able to fill that space. We had already started cementing you into legend, telling the stories and writing out the Banfield chronicles long before you passed.

So Wishing you peace now old friend. That in death you find more peace than you could find in life. Your life was a gift. And that it ended so abruptly brings the ominous reality of death that much closer, so I can know it better, and allow it to give meaning to who you’ve been, who I am, who we were, and who I can still be. It reminds me to live with renewed vigour, vigilance, and integrity, forward with love and courage into the unknown, that by the time my own clock runs out, I could look back with a sense of gratitude, for the opportunity to be here, to have known someone like you, and live meaningfully, use my time well, forgive all mistakes, and do what I can to pick up the responsibility of making my corner of reality better, for myself and anyone who enters it.

Thank you for the good times.

Fuck. I miss you.


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