This year has taken a lot of names from the world. Bowie, Rickman… and today I received the news that one of my schoolfriends had been taken too.
I’ve known Sam since we were five. We were in the same class at primary school, on the same bus trip home through secondary school. We lived three streets away from each other our whole lives. Sam was the first boy to bring me flowers when I was sick; he hung the washing out for me that same day because it was cold and he didn’t want my sickness to get worse.
He walked me home countless evenings, even though he’d then have to walk back home the opposite way himself. He introduced me to anime. He was also best friends with my now-boyfriend, and in that way that people do, implanted himself in dozens of memories of growing up.
Sam saved my life once. I hadn’t thought about this moment for years, but today brought it back. I’d passed out in front of a bus due to low blood sugar, and he pulled me out of harm’s way, put me in the recovery position and called an ambulance. There aren’t many people in my life I can say have saved it, but Sam was one of them.
My boyfriend’s anecdotes are equally memorable: they spent most afternoons of their teen years together. There’s a hole in my boyfriend’s ceiling where Sam shot a BB gun, not realising it was loaded. Odd then, years later, Sam should be the one to check I was okay after someone shot at us with a BB gun… whilst we were waiting at a bus stop.
It’s a funny world.
Sam liked me as more than a friend for a while, feelings I fortunately didn’t return. I say fortunately because if things had been different, he may not have found his girlfriend Rachael, with whom he spent his last happy years. My thoughts go out to her and Sam’s parents. Words cannot express what you all must be feeling, a thousand and one times the grief I am. It seems a gross miscarriage of justice that someone with his entire life ahead of him, who was so full of life, who literally saved the lives of others, now has no life left to live.
The last time I bumped into Sam, it was in Waterstones. We both went bright red and had an embarrassingly stammered exchange because we hadn’t expected to see each other. We laughed about it afterwards and had a quick catch-up online, promising to have another, real life one some other time.
A few weeks ago, I drove past him and thought ‘I should really meet up with him for that catch up soon’. But of course, life gets in the way and you think you have more time. It’s stunning to see how many of his friends have told me similar stories today, that they thought they’d have more time to meet up, catch up, see him one more time. That they had plans to do so, plans that now will never happen.
Tomorrow, I’ll meet up with a small group of schoolfriends instead, to raise a glass to Sam, because that’s all we can do now. Until we say goodbye at the funeral, we’ll swap stories and remember.
So, rest in peace, Sam. I wish we’d had one more time to catch up. I think we all wish that. I think of you when I think of snow, and hot chocolate, sausage rolls from the baker’s – and skateboards. Four of my favourite things, because of that one time in the village gardens, so I’ll always remember you fondly. You will be missed by so many people.