So today is July 14th. A date forever burned into my heart as the day, now 27 years ago, we were given Paul for a short while. Paul had Cystic Fibrosis and lost his battle in 1997, 2 months after he turned 13. Even though we knew all along that he would die young, and his doctors constantly told us “only a few month left” – it was still sudden. We’d gotten so used to hearing he was dying we forgot he was going to die.
The last time I had the chance to see him, my mum and sisters were going to visit, and I wanted to go see my friend instead, so I went there. I can’t really regret it – I spent my whole life treating him like any one of my family and sometimes I was too selfish to do the family rounds. I was 13! I’m sure he forgave me. I usually hit him a lot, and said I was giving him physio! We knocked lumps out of each other really, but I had the upper hand (and used it!) since I didn’t tire easy. Evil, wasn’t I!
Really, we were just cousins. The whole dying thing was always there (and you bet your ass he used that fact!) but there is no greater power than the need to have fun when you’re a kid. We spoke about it, sure, but everything else was more important. Things like Celtic Football Club, Michael Jackson, WWF (before it was WWE!) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
So yeah, it was sudden. It’s always sudden. The day I found out, I cried with my family, went round to my friend’s house and drank alcohol until I passed out on the bathroom floor. I was 13 and it was the first time I’d ever got drunk. I kept thinking how Paul would never get illegally drunk with me. We wouldn’t celebrate out 18th and have a legal drink together. I wouldn’t hate and judge his girlfriends. I wouldn’t kick him ever again. Wouldn’t tease him.
The day after the sun rose and life went on. I haltingly told my Year Head teacher that my cousin… was gone. She said words that I’m sure were meant to show comfort and sorrow, but I was in a bubble. I didn’t hear a word anyone said until the day my mother woke me up to tell me to get ready for the funeral.
My 13 year old cousin had over 100 people show to pay their respects. It seemed like more. Maybe it was. We listened to Michael Jackson songs and sang You’ll Never Walk Alone. We laughed, and it wasn’t forced. We enjoyed his life, and the impact he had on ours. Someone remembered he owed Paul a fiver and we giggled.
It’s hard to know that he’s been dead longer than he was alive. He should be here. Paul is still so present in my mind that I hate using the past tense to talk about him. I can’t imagine the person he would be and yet, when things get tough I use his memory as my less crazy side. He gets me through, simply by not being here. I can say to myself, Paul isn’t here to live his life, so YOU should. It should work more than it does, but I’m getting there. I know I can’t live his life for him, or worse, live my life for him – but it’s a reminder that I’m capable of so much more, if only I try. I don’t have the troubles he did.
That’s why I’m doing the gig tomorrow. To honour his memory, I’m not doing it simply to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, although it’s definitely a plus. I’m doing it because I love music, I believe in my friends. I enjoy gigs. I’ve enjoyed putting it together. It’s gave me something to focus on. When I’ve dealt with difficult things about it, it made me happy. I think I’ll do it again. To honour him, I will honour myself.
I went to your funeral
Yet I see you everyday
In the faces of strangers
And they'll never know the beauty they possess
Was once yours alone
I hate looking at faded photos
Of who you used to be
And memories lose colour over time
I learned the lessons
You don't know you taught
You're a bigger part of my life
Than you were before
Every second now is a breath
You haven't took
Yet you're more alive to me than before
The colours still fade though
And time takes you further than I can reach
Every moment I know you're gone
Because I went to your funeral
But I still see you everyday