Dear Stephen

hand-on-shoulder-dreams-about-people-who-have-died

Dear Stephen,

Do you remember when we went to see Trainspotting when it first came out in 1996? We were a mere 20 years old and we went to see it at the Trocadero at the end of one of the best weekends of my life. I was living in Oxford at the time and I came to stay with you for the weekend in London. We spent the whole day drinking on Saturday with our friend Dan. The night ended with you & Dan bursting into the room I was sleeping in, singing and dancing to the Macarena and collapsing on my bed. Most people would’ve found this hugely irritating and would’ve barked at you both to piss off and leave them to sleep. But no, I just found this hugely amusing, hugged you both, waved you off as you exited (still mid-Macarena) and I fell back to sleep with a smile on my face. Then on Sunday we spent the day at Notting Hill Carnival. I know traditionally people are meant to scoff at the carnival, but I genuinely had one of the best days of my life roaming the streets of Notting Hill, fast becoming friends with people we’d never met before whilst dancing to jungle and drum ‘n’ bass with them. I remember the three of us hugging and drinking on the ground late in the evening and me thinking that I couldn’t possibly be happier. The next day, on the bank holiday before I got the bus home, we spontaneously decided to go to the cinema and watch Trainspotting. This film that so many people had been raving about. At the end of the film, I remember the two of us being in some kind of stunned silence. I remember my heart beating so hard. At the time, I don’t think I could’ve loved a film more. We left the cinema gabbling over the top of each with excitement. Trainspotting had a huge impact on us. Then, I remember very sadly saying goodbye to you and to our weekend.

Well Stephen, Trainspotting 2 or T2 is out now in the cinema. I am filled with so much excitement about it and cannot wait to go and see it. I know sitting there and watching it,  I will be thinking of you. I’ve heard people say that watching T2 made them feel very nostalgic. So, when I go to see T2 and considering the nostalgia that it will unearth, made me think of you again. It made me wonder how  we could have lost contact. How could I lose contact with my friend that had such a huge influence on my life and who I am today. My friend that I shared so many ridiculously fun times with.

I can never truly fathom how two such close friends can lose contact, but every year we would both move house or in my case seemingly to a different city. The internet didn’t really exist then and not many people had mobile phones, so I guess it was much easier to lose contact with friends that you didn’t live near to. When we first stopped living near each other, I would always make my yearly phone call to your lovely Mum and we’d always have a friendly chat and she would give me your new number. However, I suppose over time, I was embarrassed to keep bothering her. I of course wish more than anything that I had. Every year since we lost contact, I would search the internet hoping to find you or some reference to you. How could someone who was so sociable and had so many friends not exist anywhere on the internet? I know it happens, some people just have no desire for social media, but for some reason it just didn’t sit easily with me that you were one of them.

Finally, this year coinciding with the release of T2 and my memories of you and us, I decided to do one final search for you. I was determined to make contact with you again. Out of all my friends that I have lost contact with over the years, you are the one I always regretted losing contact with the most. I searched for your Mum on Facebook, not with the idea of contacting her, but with the hope  there would be some mention of you on her page. And there was.

My growing fear had been realised. I found out that you’re no longer here Stephen and your journey here had ended abruptly and cruelly.

I felt sick when I first read about you and what had happened. I went cold all over and then I was filled with so much sadness. An almost surprising, overwhelming sadness that someone could feel so much for someone that they hadn’t seen in so many years. I found out you died 7 years after I last saw you. It was almost too much.

I remember the last time I saw you. I was living in London then. In a flat in Shepherd’s Bush where my bedroom had no window, where the washing machine was in the bathroom and the fridge in the hallway. It was above the Central Line, so every time an underground train rumbled underneath the building, our whole flat would shake. Amazingly, I stopped noticing this after about a month of living there. You were working at the BBC, which at the time was round the corner on Wood Lane. After work, one day you came over for dinner. My connoisseur cooking skills were not all together extensive at the time and I made you the grand meal of pasta & pesto. As always, we washed it down with red wine and then you were promptly sick. You were so embarrassed and couldn’t stop apologising. Our evening ended earlier than what it normally would have done and after we said goodbye, I was left with a weird, unsettling feeling. I cannot tell you why. Maybe I was just concerned that you were so easily ill after a bit of wine and pasta. Maybe I  was disappointed our evening didn’t carry the usual fun and excitement or maybe, just somehow, I knew it was to be the last time I’d see you.

But Stephen, all of my other memories of you are filled with nothing, but laughter, warmth and endless chatter. Do you remember when we spent New Years Eve at your uncle’s office just off of Regent Street? We drank all of the bottles of wine that were in the staff kitchen and we heroically left our loose change thinking it would cover the costs. Your uncle was not best pleased and we were stumped with a massive bill to pay between all of us. It was worth it though. We spent most of the evening on the rooftop, putting the world to rights, shouting at passersby and somehow not freezing. It must’ve been all of that expensive wine.

There were times before when we both sill lived in Oxfordshire, where we used to go clubbing with Dan. We’d go to United Kingdom and Trade in London. Trade didn’t open until 3am, so we would have to find ways to cheaply fill the time before going. We’d hop from gay bar to gay bar in Soho until our money would almost run out. We would then trawl the streets of Clerkenwell desperately trying to come up with ideas. Then we heard the sound of loud music. We followed it to a courtyard area that resembled Fagin’s haunt in Oliver Twist, we had to balance walking across planks of wood and found this house where the loud music was coming out of, that had its front doors missing . Naturally, we went inside. The downstairs was completely empty, so we climbed up the precarious looking stairs. Upstairs in full swing was a large house party with DJs, a free bar and free food. I remember, you and I helping ourselves to cake and wine and giggling like school children (we practically almost were still) as we danced to the music. Do you remember that guy who came up to us and asked if we wanted a piece of “Miles’s Birthday cake”, to which you not-so-cleverly replied “who the fuck is Miles?”. This guy looked at us sternly and said “you’ve gate-crashed this party, haven’t you?”. “No” I said “ok yeah, but can I go to the loo before you kick us out?”. To which he shrugged and said it made no difference to him and walked off. We ended up staying at the party until after it ended, chatting to Miles and his friends. They were all lawyers and some of them had clubbed together to buy the house and were in the middle of renovating it. Somehow, between the two of us, we managed to persuade the straightest people in London to come to Trade with us. Trade stayed opened until about 10am, but by 7am I started to flag. I remember going to the toilet and the next thing I know, you and some other random guy were climbing over the toilet cubicle wall that I was in. You started shaking and shouting at me. God, I’m so sorry. I must’ve given you a fright. You clearly thought I’d collapsed when in fact, I had just popped into the toilet for a quick power nap. This is it, though, Stephen. We always looked after each other.

One of my most ridiculous memories of us was when one day we couldn’t be bothered to go to college where we were doing our A-levels, so of course we quite reasonably decided to hitch hike into London for the day instead. We had about 50p between us and we bought a loaf of bread as some kind of pathetic lunch, sat in Soho square and ate it (and fed what we couldn’t manage to the pigeons), quickly ran around Hamleys like a couple of manic 8 year olds high on E numbers and promptly hitch hiked back home to Oxfordshire.

There wasn’t just the silly memories of us as hedonistic teenagers though. There were the more profound and poignant memories. Memories that shaped us and in particular shaped you.

I remember feeling honoured that I was one of the first people you came out to.

I remember on that roof top in London on New Year’s Eve you telling me that your Father was seriously ill.

I remember finding out the news he had passed and nervously phoning you in tears to console you. In your typical fashion Stephen, you were more concerned with making me feel at ease and as always you were full of that trademark positive attitude of yours.

You taught me so much. You don’t know this, but you did. You taught me to think positively, you taught me not to judge others, you made me reach a little deeper with my thoughts, but most of all you made me grab life by the horns. If you were to have a catch phrase, it would have been “Fuck it”. Your humour, your intelligence, your warmth- I will never forget. The impact you had on my life is immeasurable.

I also remember our plans to travel around America together. We worked the whole route out and we both started saving, but like so many things life got in the way and we never made it. Except, some years later I did. I travelled the routes we wanted to take with my now husband. I’m so sad you never met him. I got together with him a year after we last saw each other. I have no doubt the two of you would have got along. I’m almost certain you would have been the best of friends.

I now wonder what happened to you that your life ended the way it did. I feel sad not just for the fact that you are no longer here, but also for the way you left. Your final time here must have been unthinkable. Was your illness short-lived or had you been suffering for years? Even when I knew you? I’m so, so sorry, Stephen.

As I write this, I am somehow filled simultaneously with both an immense amount of sadness, but equally with happiness. The happiness is there because every memory I have of you is so wonderful. We had so much fun. Too much fun maybe. Every memory of you is filled with so much laughter. I was so lucky to have you as my friend.

I hope you realise just how much you were loved and not just by me. My heart goes out to your Mum, your brother and Dan who you were so close to. It has been so painful finding out what happened to you. Maybe it would have been best off, if I hadn’t. Finding this out has reminded me of everything you gave me though, which was so much. I am richer because of you. Until we meet again my beautiful friend.


As an end note, I am sadly only too aware how this article may effect some people. With a heavy heart I list the following statistics. Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women. That’s 76% of all suicides that are male. The biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK is suicide. That said, the suicide rate for women is currently at it’s highest since 2005. Reach out to someone, anyone if you are effected by this or reach out and talk to someone who you think might be.

The following numbers may be of help to some people:

Samaritans: 116 123 0r email jo@samaritans.org

Calm: 0800 58 58 58 or their annonymous web chat service: http://www.thecalmzone.net/get-help

Mind: 0300 123 3393

 

***All names used in this post have been changed***

75 comments

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  2. Ingrid · February 12, 2017

    A wonderful story with such a sad ending. I have friends like these that I haven’t spoken too for ages, because life sometimes got in the way and drove us apart. Am now wondering about contacting them again. Thank you for writing this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • thebeasley · February 12, 2017

      Oh thank you so much. Yes I would say definitely contact them. I’d give anything to have seen ‘Stephen’ again. Cheers x

      Like

  3. angelanoelauthor · February 13, 2017

    Beautifully written and filled with emotion. I’m sorry for your loss. I appreciate also that you took the time to add resources for those who might be suffering and need a hand. We should all be so honest about the loves we have, the loves we’ve lost, and what we want to be different as we keep learning. Thank you for the post.

    Like

    • thebeasley · February 13, 2017

      Thank you so very much. I wholeheartedly agree with you. Life is so precious x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Traci York · February 18, 2017

    This is a wonderful, if bittersweet, tribute to your friend. I am also appreciative of the resources you provided – I know family and friends who’ve dealt with suicide and it’s important to know there’s help out there. Keeping you, your friend, and his family in my thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ritu · February 19, 2017

    Such a touching post… it is always sad to lose touch with those friends you are really close to… and to find out something so heartbreaking after…
    💜

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Em Linthorpe · February 19, 2017

    Oh sweetheart, this was a beautifully written and touching tribute to Stephen. I understood perfectly the stories you told of your carefree youth and how important his friendship was to you. Life is truly cruel at times. Sending my thoughts to you x

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · February 19, 2017

      Lovely comment Em. Thank you so much. I really wanted it to be a tribute to him, so thank you xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Shallow Reflections · February 19, 2017

    Sorry for your loss. You lost him twice, once when you lost contact and then when you learned his fate. People come and go in our lives and it is hard to accept that final exit. Especially when so tragic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · February 19, 2017

      Thank you, yes it is exactly like I lost him twice. So sad xx

      Like

  8. Lisa Orchard · February 19, 2017

    Awww…so sorry for your loss. This is sad, but hopefully the memories will help ease your sadness.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Everything EmmZeeBee Blog · February 19, 2017

    Thank you for sharing such a heart felt story

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Tom · February 19, 2017

    What to say that hasn’t already been said and won’t sound…twee. Great read, though it must have been difficult to write. Than you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · February 19, 2017

      Oh thank you so much. Yes it was a tad upsetting writing it, but so glad I did. Cheers.

      Like

  11. Phaytea's Pulse · March 7, 2017

    Beautiful expression…..even more beautiful that you thought to share….sending hugs your way….

    Liked by 1 person

  12. josypheen · March 7, 2017

    Goodness I am so sorry your your loss.
    Stephen sounds like such a giggle – it feels like a privilege just to read about your fun times. I hope you can hold those happy memories close.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. suzyhomemakeruk · March 8, 2017

    Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for such a brave and beautifully written letter of friendship. It’s a poignant reminder of how precious good friends are and yet how all too easy it is to lose touch with them. My heart goes out to you for your loss x

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · March 8, 2017

      Thank you so much Sue. We should never take special friendships for granted, that’s for sure x

      Like

  14. noellekelly · March 25, 2017

    This definitely needs to be discussed. It’s kind of heartbreaking

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · March 25, 2017

      It so is & yes the more discussion about these issues, the better x

      Like

  15. hotmessmemoir · April 8, 2017

    Well written, I’m just so sorry it’s not a happy story for you. I think you have an incredibly important message though. Hugs!!! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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  17. Hayley, I am so glad that you wrote about your friend’s suicide and that we can openly talk about it. I hope his family and friends are not questioning too much and blaming themselves. I have personally have had to deal with the issues of this, which I won’t go into on here. Now life is good and that is what I focus on. Well written piece here’s to a future with more effective mental health strategies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · September 23

      I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had to deal with something similar Suzanne. I think it’s encouraging that people are talking about suicide and mental health in general more openly now. The more mental health issues are normalised the more likely people will seek help. Thank you x

      Like

  18. Judy E Martin · September 23

    This was such a beautiful and moving tribute to your friend. I am so sorry for your loss, it must have been such a terrible shock when you found out.
    It is lovely that you have have such good memories of him though and the fun times you had together. Precious memories indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Jennifer · September 23

    What a beautiful tribute to your friend. What a wonderful friendship. I’m so sorry. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Rosie Amber · October 21

    Oh wow, what a lovely piece, was so sad to read that he had died.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. MindOverMeta · October 21

    So beautifully written and gives us a glimpse as to the quality of your and Stephen’s friendship. I’m so sorry it ended the way it did, so often people suffer in silence. Maybe they just don’t want to burden others. I think it’s good that you can also balance that with the amazing times you shared together. How great that you have those memories x

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · October 21

      Evidently, I’m finding more & more that people tend to suffer in silence & it’s so dangerous. Thanks Jo x

      Liked by 1 person

  22. livinggaybrisbane · October 21

    Just reading this I got surer and surer as it kept going that Stephen was going to be gay and that he would have died from AIDS related complications or suicide. Really powerful story and sadly one that is all too common. Thanks for sharing though.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. fancypaperblog · October 21

    It is so beautifully written and heart breaking. Love shining through every word x

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Shailaja V · October 21

    This was heartbreaking and yet so heartwarming to read. Popping over from Suzie’s linky party and yours is the first link I landed on. There’s a certain poignancy in your writing that makes it all the more worthwhile. It’s the understanding that all those moments, the happy ones, the crazy ones that made it to your memories, did so for a reason. Stephen sounds like someone I’d like to have known. I am so very sorry for your loss and I get that, the guilt, of not being able to stay in touch. I hope he is finally at peace and my heartfelt wishes for you as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · October 21

      Such kind words. Thank you so much. My memories of our times together are so strong. He really made a mark in my life xx

      Liked by 1 person

  25. iwillnotliveinvain · October 21

    One of my greatest fears is that I’ll one day discover a few certain lost friends (that I too periodically search for on social media ) are gone – having lost the chance to ever reconnect with them or at least properly say good bye. Such a powerful post…

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · October 21

      I was devastated and it was truly gutting. Thank you for taking the time to read x

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Cyranny · October 22

    I found your link through Suzie’s party, and I am so glad I clicked… Amazing tribute to your dear friend. It really touched me to read about your story. I too lost someone precious in similar circumstances. We didn’t have the same relationship as you and “Stephen” and no two stories are the same, but your post reminded me of one I wrote last year…

    Thanks for sharing your story… *big hugs*

    Like

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  28. willowdot21 · March 8

    It is so sad to lose contact with a good friend, it’s even harder when we discover we have list them forever. Suicide is more prevalent in men and young men too. We live in a harsh world. You have your memories keep them safe. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · March 8

      I will keep them safe and hold them very dearly. There is something wrong with society that suicide is so prevalent with men. We all need to reflect on that. Thank you x

      Like

  29. willowdot21 · March 8

    Reblogged this on willowdot21 and commented:
    So touching.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. This broke my heart. So sad, and beautifully written. I moved away from home in my 20’s, and found out many, many years later of a loss of a dear friend. I had already been mourning the loss of the friendship(couldn’t understand why he stopped staying in contact with me.) then to find out it was due to his suicide. It’s like mourning the loss two fold. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. This is still such a poignant and relevant post, and I think you have touched on this beautifully. I believe that the best way to honour Stephen’s memory is to continue the discussion and remove the stigma- thank you for sharing, friend ☺

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · March 8

      Thank you so much Jessica. I will endeavour to continue the conversation. We need to be so much more open about mental health. So many deaths like Stephen’s could be preventable. Cheers x

      Like

  32. Losing the Plot · March 8

    Oh crumbs, what a poignant beautiful post. I am so glad you shared this today, and are keeping his memory alive. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · March 8

      Thank you Sonia. He meant so much to me and I intend to continue keeping his memories alive x

      Liked by 1 person

  33. gemmaorton · March 8

    I love and hate this post equally. So moving and poignant. Very different circumstances but I have a couple of friends I regret having lost contact with. Only to realise that at their funerals when I wished I’d have made that move to say ‘hi’. Brilliantly written! I’m a bit emotional now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · March 8

      Oh I’m sorry love! I did cry throughout writing this. I’m so sorry to hear of your losses. It’s so heartbreaking, isn’t it? x

      Liked by 1 person

  34. mistybooks · March 8

    What a moving post.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. sunshinysa · March 9

    Thank you for sharing your journey of friendship. I am glad that you did search for him. Very sorry for what you found. Still I think Stephen will help you embrace life more, he still walks in your heart.

    Liked by 1 person

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