I know you’d agree with me that our family is an interesting one. We’re quite the collection of neuroses, to say the least, who manage to be so close because of that. Despite any distance age-wise or geographically, our bunch of ‘cousins’ (as we’ve long since given up working out first, second, removed or not) are thick as thieves in a way we know as the Holmes way.
Our fathers have always been close, and I’ve always seen a parallel between your family and mine; you’re the same age as Sophie, my little sister, and I’m the same age as Bethany, your older sister. Maybe because of this – or maybe for reasons I can’t currently place – I’ve always felt an affinity with you.
We met plenty of times as children, but I’ll never forget the time we really met as ‘adults’; when Beth had invited me over for drinks, along with Alex and Andy. You, a 14 year old who was too tall and too developed in the facial hair department to make that claim with a straight face, witnessed me, six years senior, drinking far too much gin and crying for my parents.
I won’t say it’s my proudest moment, but from that night I met two of my best friends and became closer to two of my cousins. From that night, my impression of you was set; a boy who looked older than he was but was more annoyed he couldn’t get his half price bus fare than proud he could get served in a pub; a boy with an easy smile and cheerful manner who made any room he was in a brighter place; a boy who would stay with you when you needed it, even if it meant holding your hair back and listening to whatever nonsense you would come out with at the time.
I was so proud and happy when you messaged me a few years later to let me know you’d been accepted into Northumbria uni. I couldn’t wait to show you my adopted city, which had accepted me in a way our home town never did. And I knew the boy who I never saw without a smile on his face and who no one could find a bad word to say about would fit right in. I was surprised when you left, but knew you’d do the right thing for yourself.
Months later, you found out you had cancer. You, a young strong boy who played rugby and hardly drank, didn’t smoke and wouldn’t go near drugs. You, who everyone loved and had the brightest future ahead of you. You.
And you stayed yourself. You stayed positive in a way no 19 year old should ever have to be. You never once thought of yourself; you kept going for your parents, because you weren’t going to let them lose another son. You kept smiling through the hellish treatment you had to go through. You touched the hearts of everyone you knew – and plenty of people who didn’t know you, until this happened – by being honest and lively about your condition on Facebook and in the local press. And the love and support you had was both unbelievable and nothing more than you deserved.
This morning, I found out this was a battle that even you couldn’t win.
I can’t use the same platitudes many people do in these circumstances, for several reasons. But I’ll do my best to give you what you deserve.
I’m angry and I’m utterly torn at the unfairness of it all. You were 20 years old and in a just world this wouldn’t have happened to you.
But I’m happy you’re no longer in pain. I’m happy you got the chance to go away and make memories with your family. I’m happy you saw Beth and Kris get married – I’ll take care of them. I’m happy your last moments had your friends and family around you. You knew you were loved until the end. Facebook today has shown that – your family, friends, colleagues and schoolmates have come together to make the point to the world just what a special person you were.
I want to thank you for helping me, although you didn’t know it. When I was having to hide sharp objects in my house for my own sake, when I couldn’t see further than a dark tunnel I thought I could only escape by blade, noose or jumping, I thought of you. Of how brave you were, how you were forced to be brave because you didn’t ask for this, how your parents would give anything at all for a guarantee you’d be around for another day. And I found strength in that. You saved me, and I didn’t get the chance to tell you.
Unfortunately now we’ll have to celebrate your birthdays, other family events and holidays without buying you a drink. But when your dad’s throwing shapes to Town Called Malice, we know you’d be smiling.
Goodnight, cuz. We love you.