“Beer! Get me another beer” came the muffled sound from Simon as he ushered me close to his bedside.
He coughed a little and motioned to the nurse to bring me a beer. My first thought, revealing in hindsight my naïve belief that Simon was going to be ok “What’s he on about? Beer, in a hospital?” – then it dawned on me – Hospice – similar spelling, but by no means the same as a hospital.
The events that followed are by no means verbatim and the sequences are, I’m sure incorrect. But the actual occurrences are all recalled from my last day with Simon.
I looked at my mate, that broad man with the fluffy hair and realised, he looked grey. I’ve never seem him looking grey before and he’s lost a lot of weight. But the sparkle in his eyes was still there and behind the broken vessel, my old mate was shining through, albeit a little less brightly.
“Don’t worry mate, I’m fine. Everything’s fine.” That’s what he said to me, lying in his bed, full of pipes and looking rather hot. But he meant it – he was ready. Jeannette hovered in and out and it really hurt – knowing my two best friends were going to be seperated soon – ‘I must be strong for Simon’ I thought, right before my eyes started to fill. “Why is he here? He’s too young. He’s my mate and I don’t want to say goodbye” the thoughts raced through my mind and I felt sick, or rather I felt dizzy with sadness.
‘I must keep strong for my mate’. I sat next to him and held his hand. A squeaky voice looked at me and said “Thank you” – I never knew what he meant but my feeling was that he valued our friendship and he too, was not happy to be leaving so soon. I told him “pack it in Simon, don’t thank me – thank you I think mate”. ‘Why was he thanking me? He’s the one who always had a moment to listen to the things I wanted to talk about. He was the only bloke with enough character to tell me stuff I may not want to hear, but would say it anyway’. He was a man of great belief and vision and he was thanking me for my friendship?!
We talked about many things. Becky, Rob and Jeannette were high on the list but the two most re-assuring things were when he told me he was ready to die and why:-
“I’ve met Jesus and I’m ready to go to him,” were his words give or take. “I met him a couple of weeks before I came in – and you’ll never guess what He was wearing?” said Simon, now looking a little more lucid as the beer and morphine subsided. “Khaki combat shorts, a cheesecloth short-sleeved shirt and sandals,” came the incredulous statement. “He took me for a walk along the beach and we had a cheese and onion sandwich. He told me all about his plans and that he’d be seeing me in a few days”.
Simon looked at me and broke into floods of tears “He was so – beautiful! Really chiselled features, with rich dark skin, a bit like Aladdin looked – He was so kind – it was such a peaceful time – I’m ready mate”. My eyes filled again and I held his hand tightly. I couldn’t look at him as he’d know I was sad and I wanted this to be a happy time; a time of solidarity; one man there for his brother. In some ways, I was happy – my mate was saved and I’d be seeing him on the other side. But it all seemed such a terrible shame – in all the situations and scrapes we’d been through as friends, nothing had prepared me for sitting with my mate, holding his hand as he slowly slipped in and out of consciousness.
We prayed a lot that afternoon. “Look after Jeannette mate, she’s going to need you – I need you to look out for her” he said as he looked me square in the eye. “You know I will mate,” I promised, all the time thinking ‘damn – this is hard – how can this man lie here, knowing he’s dying and all he can think about is his family and that they’ll be ok once he’s gone’.
My parting memory of Simon is the beads of sweat on his forehead as I kissed it and said “ Goodbye brother, I love you man.” His head was cold and his hands were hot.
Even now, it makes me cry because Simon was a good man and I really believe I was one of the folks who loved him for who he was – for his big-hearted, sometimes awkward demeanour hiding lots of courage. He said it like it was and was prepared to risk the status quo in order to do the right thing.
And for his wacky sense of humour – you either got it, or you didn’t and ‘eckithump’ I got it! I know he loved me for who I am, albeit the me he knew is not the same person I know – he concentrated mainly of the good stuff and was one of those folks who ‘bigged you up’ in front of people and made you feel important. I prefer the person he saw in me than the one I see in me.
I drove to work that afternoon and the only thing I remember after getting there is wishing my co-director Chris would stay so I could keep out of the way and mourn my mate’s condition and the sense of loss I felt. As it was, that didn’t happen and I was straight to work – making lots of coffees to try and distract myself from the fact that even though on that day, Simon was still alive, I knew I’d never see him again and to be honest, I wasn’t ready for that. I’m still not ready now – but every day, it gets a little less weird and it’s starting to sink in.
I tell these events, not for self-pity – rather to share the fact that Simon was a man of great strength and faith and he loved his family more than anything else he was consciously aware of. He dared to lose things in order to gain them and he had more bottle than anyone I know. Even though he wasn’t always self-confident, he did things anyway and beat the fear.
The biggest testimony is in the two offspring he left. They are both full of his character and already realising the impact his life has had on the people he met. I only pray now that Becky & Rob are strengthened by this testimony of mine and their lives are changed in some way because of their dad.
And finally, Jeannette – my mentor and friend. There was no Simon without Jeannette – no Jeannette without Simon. And though he’s physically left us now, they will always be together in spirit and Jeannette will do more now than ever before because of her love for Simon. And for that, I’m grateful – that he picked up the phone and called me to ‘show me his business idea’ and that our friendship outgrew any potential business profit we might make.
God bless Simon Dawson and may we all learn humility, love and courage from knowing him and calling him friend.