We lost a mate last week. Calling him a mate makes it sound like he was someone we casually knew but I use the word ‘mate’ because he wasn’t a mushy kind of guy. You see, last week we lost BJ’s best mate who we’ll call J for the purposes of this post. You may remember I wrote about J earlier this year when we went to his 21st party (you can catch up here).
His passing was unexpected and shocking. It’s devastated our family because J was more than a mate, he’d become family. The boys started therapy together when BJ was 22 months old. Their lives were intertwined from that moment as they went on to primary school, high school and the current day program together. I saw them as the dynamic duo. When they went through a transition in life the setting changed but the boys had each other and there was history between them.
Not only were the boys’ lives connected day-to-day but our family’s lives became intertwined. J’s Mum and I were together two days a week doing a therapy program for many years. When BJ was being a turkey during a therapy session, J’s Mum would give me a look and I knew she got it. Same would go in reverse. We were supposed to be the grown-ups but often the lines would blur and J’s Mum and I would cheat in therapy and eat chocolate brownies to console ourselves after that day’s battles. We knew each other’s boys inside out. We shared information that you could only tell another person in a similar situation. We laughed and laughed till we cried, on occasion even snorting (not me of course, I’m too ladylike!)
When I was mad about something happening at school I’d pick up the phone and unleash knowing she’d understand completely and happily listen and get cranky on my behalf. I never felt isolated because I knew she had my back and certainly would stand up for BJ if needed.
Our families got together regularly and when AJ was born she became part of the gang. She’s never known a time when J wasn’t in our lives. When we recently had BJ’s party she commented that the hall would be good for J because of a particular feature which showed me that not only did she know what was good for BJ but she was aware of J’s needs too. She got him too.
The sadness has been immense for all of us. Hubby had a particularly good relationship with J and always did his best to make him laugh. They had an understanding and J loved it when Hubby was rude about J’s Mum. Hubby saw J every morning when he dropped off BJ at his day program. He’d always chat to him and then in the evening I’d get a report on how J was that day. They were mates.
It’s hard to imagine that J won’t be there for our next get together, or there each day when I pick up BJ from his day program. A big gap in all our lives but particularly BJ’s. His friend who has always been there is no longer around.
Last Wednesday I saw J and today I was at his funeral. As an adult I’m grappling with how that can be. How life can change irrevocably in a second. And yet, people face this every day, we are not special.
If you’ve been following along for a while you’ll know that I like to always have a positive to the stories I share. Although it’s hard to find a positive during such sadness I have found myself saying, “I’m so grateful that…………………” as I’ve talked it all through.
I’m left feeling grateful that J was part of our lives, even if it was all too short. I’m most grateful that both the boys experienced a great friendship that spanned the years and many changes in their lives. Despite both boys being non-verbal and completely different personalities they shared a great friendship. They laughed a lot and like most friends, had shared interests. Those interests changed depending on their age but when they were little they loved car racing sets, swimming in J’s pool and both enjoyed a good dose of toilet humour. A get together would never be complete for the boys without cheezels and a sara-lee banana cake which they woofed down in no time and AJ happily shared in. When I recently put together the photos for BJ’s 21st it really emphasised the amount of time the boys spent together and how much fun they had.
Friendships come in all shapes and sizes but never assume that you can’t have a great one because of physical limitations or speech restrictions. J and BJ are a great example of overcoming the obstacles to have a firm bond.
We’ll miss our mate but certainly hold his memory close to our hearts and have many fun times to reflect upon.
The basis for starting HWWT was to share information on places where access is good and it’s possible to enjoy time with friends and family. Life changes quickly so I urge you to spend time with your loved ones and make great memories.
So very sorry to hear of the loss of this fine young man, your friend. Very sad for BJ especially.
We are all feeling it in our family but his Mum is the one in our thoughts at the moment.
My thoughts are with your family and Js. So wonderful that your son and J had the chance to have such a strong and enduring friendship despite being non verbal. That in itself is so special and worth being grateful for x
Thanks so much for your thoughts. We are so grateful that the boys had so many laughs and shared such a great bond. It seems all too short but I am sure we are not the only ones to feel that way when we lose a loved one.
Harry Johnston-Lord says
Julie, The passing of J is such a sad event. I never met him but having read this post I know him. I hope BJ handles the loss of a mate better than I do. Give him an extra hug for me.
Thanks for your thoughts. BJ has had a tough week but it was great to see a smile on his dial yesterday as he had a side-car experience. The photos are wonderful and it was a relief to see him so happy.
Nancy E says
I’m so sorry Julie. It’s so difficult losing someone you care about. Sounds like J was very special to many people. Cherish the memories. Hope his family finds strength during this very difficult time.
Indeed he was a very special person. We are in close contact with his family and hope to help in any way we can.
This is so sad Julie, my deepest sympathies for you and your family. I hope you are all doing okay.
Thanks for your thoughts. I am sure it will take us all a long time to adjust but we are okay. It really is a reminder to make every day count, even if that is a cliché.
Dennis P. Baughman says
I feel so sad by reading this article, My best wishes will be always with you & your family. I hope all of you will be fine soon .
Thanks Dennis. I appreciate your thoughts.
Christine @ Adventure, Baby! says
I’m so sad for your whole family’s loss Julie. You lost such a special person in all your lives.
What a sad time for both of your families. I’m so sorry. You’ve written a beautiful tribute to a perfect friendship, and the photos show everything about how much joy they brought each other.
Carine van Soest says
I’m so sorry for your loss.
Specialy BJ must be having a diffecult time.
There is nothing like a mate in the same situation, they understand even without words.
Growing up there were no other childern my age with the same handicap where I lived, but I remember the click I felt meeting them during therapy.
21 is an age for living not for dying.
You are right we should cherish the time we have!