Thursday 17 November 2022

He was a good man. Is there a better legacy?

Today is Tim’s birthday. He still has a birthday, even though he died in 2014. Yet another gone far too young.
Tim was one of those rare people built purely of their own essence. Nothing about him came from elsewhere.  
Although he’d been living with cancer for a long time, Tim remained stoic and dry witted throughout his surgery and ensuing disfigurement. 
When I visited him in UCH a few days before he died, he showed not one single change of character. Of course he felt emotions just like any human, but Tim was English: he kept a lid on it.  

I asked him if he’d watched the game the previous night. He nodded but explained he’d not seen all of it. 

“So tired.” he whispered on stretched breath, as he lent back on the pillow.

“That’d be your body fighting the illness.” I offered, knowing it was no such thing.

Tim looked over to me and smiled. He was never a man to accept bollocks, even when disguised with a pretty ribbon.

He had no time for it.

“Nah. Nah mate. T’isn’t. You know that.” he said, forcing me to nod in agreement.

The silence that followed was laden with truth; the simple yet devastating truth that he was struggling to stay alive.

After my visit Tim texted me to say thanks for coming. 

Away from his bedside I was allowed to leave the trivial shores of Footie Talk, and text him back that he was a good man.

Smily emoticon came back; his way of saying “Goodbye” to my “Goodbye.”

He was a good man. 

Many said just that in the church, just after they played The Clash

It was said in the pub by many more. 

It was the summation of the man.

If our lives are to be summed up in five words, I can think of none finer. 

Once you’ve popped your clogs it makes no difference whether you climbed Everest or won X- Factor. 

Did you live a just life?
Did you do harm?
Did you spread the love?

The sadness that accompanies each death is as different as the human gone. When Tim’s coffin came around the corner of the village street, carried by close friends of mine, my emotions went into spasm.

Yes, he was loved by them,
and I am part of them,
and he is gone,
and they are carrying him,

and whoooshhhh ... my tears flowed.

Then I lived far away, but now I live once more among those friends. Today I write less than a mile from where Tim lived.

Up the road from here, in some other friends’ garden, there grows an oak that I helped along from acorn, when I lived in Galway.

On a Winter’s morning I drove it up here, and Tim and I planted it, together with his son.

Underneath it now lies my other friends’ beloved dog (also called Charlie). So beyond life, the dog nutures the tree, and the moniker ‘Charlie’s Oak’ now alludes to more than me.

Tim was humanity on legs, the human race in a single person.  

Yes, he was flawed; a smile appeared on my face each and every time I saw him; he was a good man.

When death comes to us, I hope we might all match that legacy.

Oh and to me it was never ‘Charlie’s Oak’: it was always the oak I planted with Tim and his son.

©Charlie Adley