This is an MS Paint sketch of my old friend, Jon Williams that I made as part of an image I made for International Friendship Day 2019. Sadly, today I attended Jon’s funeral – the first time that I have ever had to attend the funeral of a friend.
Though my memory is a touch hazy on this front, I believe Jon and I met in PE classes in 2004, the year in which we both started at The Corsham School. Although I absolutely hated PE classes, I have fond memories of chatting with him prior to having to do the awful bit (the exercise). Over the years, he and I would share several classes together, and though there aren’t any particular memories in my mind that make for interesting anecdotes, I hold on to various fragments of conversations, and most importantly of all, a feeling of trust, friendliness, and kindness. He was always such a pleasant person, and while I can remember lots of people saying mean things about one another (it’s what teenagers do – I was guilty of it too) I can’t remember anyone ever saying a bad word against Jon, and that’s probably because they’d have a pretty hard time finding anything bad to say.
Chatting with him was always easy and enjoyable, and though I have been known for talking about all manner of bizarre and eccentric things, I remember that he was always happy to engage with me and take me completely seriously even when talking about the silliest of things. I felt respected by him, and liked, and aren’t they the two most important ways that a person can make you feel?
I like to make a rule of keeping in touch with everybody who has been good to me, but I was less good at that immediately after leaving school, and for a few years, other than the odd interaction at parties, we didn’t have much interaction. Since 2011, I have arranged Christmas meals out with old friends, and although Jon wasn’t at the first few, he eventually became a regular guest, and he often came along to other meals I’d organise throughout the year too. It was great to be in touch with him, and to count him among my ‘current’ circle of friends once again.
In 2021, I came down with a very nasty case of COVID-19 and spent a huge amount of time confined to my bed (and, for a short time, a hospital bed). During that time, chatting online was one of the main ways that I filled my time, and I can remember talking to Jon about it online – he was, of course, very kind and supportive of my situation, so it was a pleasant distraction to talk with him.
Due to the pandemic, the last actual time that I saw Jon was at a Christmas meal at the end of 2019. I was supposed to see him at a meal towards the end of 2021, but he had a scheduling issue and wasn’t able to make it, which he felt bad about – I told him not to worry about it (as I never want friends to feel any pressure with regard to meeting up with me) and that we’d have plenty of opportunities to see one another in future. Sadly, of course, I would turn out to be quite wrong about that.
Towards the end of 2022, I started arranging that year’s Christmas meal, and messaged Jon to ask whether or not he would be able to come, emphasising that he could decide at the last minute, if that made it easier for him, or increased his chances of attending (as I knew it had been a factor before). He apologised, and said he wouldn’t be there. This would be the last message I would ever receive from him – I had intended to reply with a message saying that I was sorry he wouldn’t be there, and that I’d look forward to seeing him at a future get together, but I was given the news of his death before I could ever get back to him.
When you’ve been friends with some one for over a decade, and the friendship has survived a period of a couple years where you don’t see one another, you start to regard them as part of the furniture of life, so to speak. When they’re the same age as you, you imagine they’ll always be there. They’re a part of the family of friends that you think you’ll get to watch making their way through life. Even though you might only see them once or twice a year, once they’re gone, their sudden absence is felt pretty significantly – losing item of furniture in the house of life is a rattling and distressing experience.
I thought to myself “Gosh, I guess that’s all the time I’ll get with him” and I kept asking myself whether or not I’d done enough. My impression of him had been very positive, but would he have said the same? Did I bring enough joy into his life, during the time that we spent together. Well, during the funeral service I was honoured to be mentioned specifically by name for my role in his life (inviting him to the meals, and giving him a way to keep up with various other old friends), and while I may not have been one of his absolutely closest friends (nor he mine) we mattered to one another, and I can take solace from the fact that I had the privilege of knowing him and playing an important role in his life – as he played in mine.
Here’s a picture of an outing in summer 2017, with me and various friends, including Jon: