Thursday 20 May 2021

In memory of Jon Lewin.

In memory of Jon Lewin, on what would have been his 62nd birthday. From Double Vision in October 2006. 

A couple of weeks ago I received in the post a package which reaffirmed my faith in human nature.  

Although it only contained a simple T-shirt, I was surprised, delighted and almost emotionally overwrought.

Back in September I was sponsored to participate in the Galway Hospice’s Memorial Walk, a splendid and very successful event which raises much-needed funds for the most worthy of causes. 

Each walker wore a T-shirt on which was printed the name of a person in whose memory they walked that day. 

I chose to walk in memory of Jon Lewin, a life-long friend who died of a brain tumour a few short years ago. 

Upon arriving at Claddagh Hall I was given a package containing the T-shirt I had ordered, and went off to the Gents to put it on. 

At the back of my mind, a wee small irritating voice had been nagging me for days, wondering if they would have spelled his name right. And lo, as soon as I saw the shirt out of its wrapping, there was the name a certain John Lewin. 

And then I cried. 

Clearly, I didn’t cry because they had spelled his name wrong. There are many things that might upset me in this world, as regular readers know only too well, but an excellent institution such as the Galway Hospice awarding hundreds of walkers free T-shirts in a thoughtful tribute to lost loved ones could never be a cause for complaint. 

No, I was mourning, and it hit me like a Tsunami. I had written about Jon in this colyoom the week before, when I related our nightmare teenage holiday in Greece, so his memory was fresh in my brainbox, and I felt his presence with me on that day. 

‘Stop being an idiot, Adley!’ I told myself, and put on the T-shirt, but each time I looked at the name, John with an ‘h’, I had a ridiculous and irrational emotional reaction.

This geezer’s name on my shirt was not Jon’s, but what did it matter? 

This day, this walk, this fund-raising event was not about me and my pedantic neurotic needs. 

Somewhat foolishly, I decided to mention what had happened to the organisers, making sure to stress that it really was not a problem to me in the slightest, but that maybe in future, what with there being all manner of new nationalities and names arriving to live in Ireland, attention to detail might help avoid people getting upset. 

I hated myself for saying anything, because however I emphasised that I was fine with it, that it wasn’t about me but potential walkers of the future, the more the friendly hospice professionals apologised. 

Maybe, through their depth of experience, they could see more in my eyes than they let on. 

I was certainly unaware of how emotionally messed up I was.
Stepping outside the Claddagh Hall, I stood by the dock and watched all the wonderful walkers turning up in their T-shirts. 

Nobody seemed to be alone, and even though I would normally loathe to have company on a walk, I felt strangely lonely and, once again sad. 

Looking at all the Irish names on all the others’ T-shirts, I suddenly had a bit of a panic. Oh no, I should be walking for my little four year-old friend from Mayo who died recently. 

How could I forget her?
How could I not think to put her name on my T-shirt? 

And who is this person whose name is on my T-shirt? It’s not Jon.
And why do I feel so nervous?

Why do I feel so scared of being a part of this crowded walk?
And why and why and why ... 

Jon was a very beautiful and calm man, and as if he stood at that very moment by my side, I heard his gentle whisper in my ear. 

‘Stop being a prat, Charlie! Get yourself out of here, and walk somewhere else. This is not for you today. You’re too much of a mess.’ 

With the rain starting to fall, I ran away, jumped into my car and drove far away from the crowds. I felt horrible, hopeless, guilty as charged, and could not, for some reason, stop crying. 

Eventually I parked at the beach in Furbo, and proceeded to walk long and alone: stumbling over rocks; squidging wet-booted through flooded fields, and finally sitting, breathing, restoring my mental order on a boulder covered with clams. 

I walked for all those who had sponsored me. I walked for the Galway Hospice. 

I walked for Jon, and I walked for my 4 year-old friend. 

Jon aspired to be a real rock’n’roll person, always cutting his own personal swathe, and I truly felt that he understood and appreciated why I had done a runner from the Walk. 

I never wasted a moment wondering if any of my sponsors would begrudge their donations to the hospice on the grounds that I had walked the coastline a few miles further west. 

And I had walked for myself, taking time now to lie at face-level with a river, mesmerised by the beauty of the babbling flow, as I regained control of my emotions, and accepted that evidently I had seriously needed to grieve. I threw a wobbly, cried a bucket and walked alone.  

What better organisation to be the catalyst for such an emotional outpouring than the Galway Hospice?

But what of the package in the mail? 

Yes - you guessed it! 

Reaffirming my faith in the future of our species, and going way beyond any hopes, expectations, even idle daydreams, Fiona at the Galway Hospice saw fit to print a T-shirt with Jon’s name on it, and send it to me, with an apology and a thank you note. 

At this stage, all I want to say is no, please, let me thank you, for bowling me over and showing so much love and care that I am, once again, quite emotional. 

Oh and thanks to the Universe for sending us people like that!


©Charlie Adley