We received the kind of e-mail yesterday that nobody wants to receive. Richard’s nephew, Paul, lost his battle with cancer Saturday evening. We always knew that this outcome was a possibility, but in the end it came as an immense shock. Paul fought that monster with the ferocity of a pride of lions over the past eighteen months and there was every indication that he was winning the battle. Richard spoke to him on his birthday in late August and the news was excellent. Still some fighting to do, but he was definitely on the homestretch. Days later Richard talked to his sister, Paul’s mother, and there had been a slight setback. Paul was in hospital, but doctors kept reassuring the family that it was absolutely no cause for concern. It was just a glitch and the expected outcome was still total recovery. Paul went home next day and everything seemed fine again.
But then it all changed last week. We don’t know many details, as it wasn’t appropriate to ask yesterday when we spoke to Paul’s mother and each of his siblings. They were all in shock because of the suddenness of it all and I’m sure that they don’t fully understand what happened themselves yet. However, it seems that the monster stealthily gained admittance by another door and embarked on a swift mission of mass destruction. It was all over quickly, mercifully for Paul, and he passed away peacefully at home, with his nearest and dearest around him.
These things happen and are part of a grand plan that we aren’t expected to understand. But as Paul’s younger brother said yesterday, “Why are there so many evil bastards in the world who live long lives, when a thoroughly decent bloke like my brother is stolen away from us at just turned forty-eight?” Why indeed, Michael. And Paul was a thoroughly decent bloke. I never met him myself, thanks to the physical distance between here and England, but I knew him through letters and phone conversations, as well as through all that others said about him. He never made an enemy in his life, could never do enough for others while expecting nothing in return, worked harder than anyone else I know, was totally devoted to his family, and on it goes. It doesn’t seem right, for sure.
But, once the shock wears off, those who loved him best will have the comfort of the powerful, loving legacy he leaves behind. He and his wife had a long marriage that has been the envy of all who know them. They were childhood sweethearts whose hearts only ever belonged to each other. They raised a fine son of their own, who is now a teacher, making a difference at a rough inner-city school. But Paul was also a father figure for many young people who needed one. But of course we only found out about that by accident as that’s the kind of person Paul was. Quiet, shy, unassuming, and probably totally unaware of just how special he was to all who knew him.
Richard asked me to arrange for a delivery of flowers to Paul’s widow and son, as well as something for the funeral, which I’ve been trying to do on here for the past while. I obsess over these things anyway as I’m not the sort to just pick out anything that looks nice. I always want to express how I feel about the person and who the person was, if you know what I mean. But this time it’s especially hard as Paul was a paradox, really, which is hard to represent in flowers. Something representing strength is too showy, something understated is too weak, and on it goes. But I’ll find something.
Rest in peace Paul.