Because I had to hang around the house yesterday morning I missed the Thursday morning market in La Roche. Since I prefer to get my fresh food from the market I decided to go to the Friday market in Bonneville, where I inevitably stop off in the main square for a tonic water before heading home. While I was sitting there my phone rang and I saw that it was from "Southport, UK". And I knew immediately what it was! Steve lives in Southport but this call didn't flash up as "Steve" - just "Southport". Turns out it was Steve's daughter, Josie, who had found my number on her dad's phone, knew we were friends, and called to tell me that Steve had died on Monday evening!
While I say "I knew immediately what was up" I mean that Steve and I usually chatted about once a week at the weekends but he had been letting things slip a little these past couple of months. I sent him a message about six weeks ago to ask what was up as he was very quiet and he told me that he had been back in hospital for four weeks with pneumonia, brought on by his compromised immune system. So we chatted a couple of times and then he went quiet yet again. A couple of times I messaged him and said I hoped he was OK, but, as I said to my sister last weekend, I didn't want to keep hassling the guy if he wasn't feeling well. Turns out he was having difficulty breathing again this weekend so Josie rushed him into hospital where, sadly, he died on Monday night.
So in one way I knew something was up but it was still a shock. I'm so glad she was thoughtful enough to let me know and she apologized for breaking it to me while I was out, but hey, is there ever an easy way to break this kind of news? I was still at the market so what with the noise in the background I couldn't catch everything she was saying, but I did grasp that it wasn't the cancer that killed him in the end, but rather breathing difficulties. I think she mentioned "thrombosis" also but, as I say, I was upset and couldn't keep asking her to repeat herself.
I know we've all got to go sometime but I just couldn't help feeling that Steve was a bon vivant and somebody who really would have enjoyed his retirement. He retired three years ago at age 62 because, as he said, he would have enough money to live on and he had had enough of marching to the beat of somebody else's drum. The first year he retired he travelled all over the world - I think he said he did 12 trips! That makes sense as we actually met on a trip to Machu Picchu six years ago. We hit it off and he came out to me twice (see my post on our magical New Year's eve here) and I spent a week in England with him last year, after meeting up with him in Rhodes a couple of years ago. We were just great friends! Maybe it would have been something more if I had lived in England but it wasn't to be. It didn't change much though because we could certainly yack for England and spent many an hour putting the world to rights and arguing about Brexit - he was pro and I'm against! Doesn't matter much now though does it!
The second year after his retirement he spent doing his house up so that it would be his "forever home" and he was quite happy to just pootle around the UK for that year. That was followed by my going out there in August, which was when he found out he had lymphoma - I went with him to the hospital in Liverpool and sat there all afternoon reading while he was having his tests. He kept the results to himself for a while though as his son was getting married shortly thereafter and he didn't want to put a damper on their day - although apparently they noticed that he wasn't his usual self and suspected something was up. And then year three of his retirement was spent dealing with chemo and a bone marrow transplant to fight lymphoma - and by all accounts it was a success! And yet … he was diagnosed last August and here he is gone just a year later! It just doesn't seem "fair" to me. I know, I know, nothing is fair in life and many people have it much worse, but I can't get over that he only got to enjoy his "freedom" for two years all told. All the more so since he was someone who loved life and lived it to the full. Maybe that kind are just destined to go early - I don't know. My lovely friend, J, was another bon vivant and while her mother lived to be 102 and lived on her own in her own home in central London until the end, J only made it a few years past retirement and didn't get to see 70!
So Steve, my old mate, I'm so sorry your brave fight against cancer wasn't enough. I shall miss our chats and miss looking forward to the time "when I'm well enough to travel again and we can get together". I believe in life after death so send us a sign mate won't you, and I'll know you're all right! Love ya my old buddy!