In the months after the stroke, I was quite convinced that I was going to die. I wanted to tie up some loose ends.
With that in mind, I searched for some of my teenage, pre-university friends. I lost touch with ptetty much everybody during university, so all the people, I hadn’t seen for thirty-plus years. I didn’t even intend contacting them, merely to hopefully see that they’d all done okay.
A big interest my whole life has been politics, although in my pre-eighteen years I was a Conservative. It was 1980s Liverpool, the city was controlled by hardline left-wingers, it was really easy to look at what they were doing and to rail against them. I’ve only realised in more recent years that my destiny was to rail against anything I perceived as wrong, and university opened my eyes that the Conservatives were just as bad. University for me started in 1986, and I’ve never supported the Conservatives since then. I’ve never particularly suported anyone, at least not consistently. But at eighteen, many of my friends came from this base,.
Anyway, I looked people up. Some people I found. I was almost fifty, so they too would have been in their fifties and sixties. All except for one girl. I did find her, but there were reports of her death, in only 1995. She’d have only been in her early thirties, that couldn’t be right!
I actually found her details on a site about graves, of all things. I recognised her name, although when she died she was married, and the name of the village in which she was buried. Unfortunately, she was an only child, plus both her mother and her father were now dead, so, for me, the trail went cold. I didn’t think it was appropriate to dig further.
The site had a strange rule. Anybody could view the site, complete with low-resolution photographs. However, if you wanted high-resulution, you had to register. With my eyesight, the bigger the better. So, I registered. I didn’t realise that my request would be visible to anybody else viewing the site, but no matter.
That was all 2016, the year of the stroke.
Imagine my surprise when, this morning, three years later, I received a message regarding my request. On this web site, my request had appeared alongside a link, “contact the person who made this request”. It didn’t broadcast my email, but allowed people to send a contact message.
It was an old friend of her’s, just as I was. They’d known Vanessa after I’d left Liverpool, and by the sounds of things, right up to her death. Vanessa had an aggressive form of cancer, which took her within a couple of years of diagnosis, aged just thirty-two.
I’m glad she got married, that she felt that “I want to spend the rest of my life” with someone, and that it was rciprocated. I know that lots of marriages don’t work out, but none of us goes into a marriage thinking it will fail. I hope the chap went on to find happiness again – this is someting that came up after the stroke, and the last thing I wanted was for my wife to feel any kind of obligation to my memory. By the same token, I assume there were no children. That’s a shame – child-rearing is hard work but there is nothing like the joy of childbirth.
Today, I’ve had a lovely email exchange with the person who contacted me. For my part, it was mostly reminiscing about those carefree, extremely drunken, times. It has brought tears to my eyes thinking of it, I realise I have been really lucky, knowing the people I’ve known. I can sit here and bemoan the stroke, but at least I have had a life, and even today am trying to be a positive influence. Thirty-two is no age to go.