On the 18th January this year, I published a post about the sudden death of one of my oldest friends. Since then, his family, and all of us who miss him, have been to his funeral, read eulogies in the press, and continued to correspond about the hole that his passing has left in our lives.
Recently, the time came for his son and daughter to undertake the painful task of clearing the belongings from his flat in Surrey. This is never going to be a good thing, but often throws up memories that are as pleasant as some others are sad. One of the joys of my long relationship with Pete, was the fact that we always wrote to each other. We were not the sort to chat on the telephone, and during the long period that he lived and worked in Canada, we began a long series of letters, many sent during some very difficult times in my life.
This continued after he returned to England. Despite the fact he was back in the country, we had got into the habit of writing, and just carried on. Sometimes the letters were long, though occasionally just one page of updates, containing little of consequence. But they were important to me, and I hoped that they were to him also. Most were handwritten, but some were typed, others even printed off. Once computers became common, we progressed to e-mail, which was a real bonus, as Pete’s handwriting was never easy to read, and something of a skill to decipher.
Late last week, I received a hefty parcel in the post. Inside, I found a manila folder, with Pete’s distinctive writing on it. Inside that folder were most of the letters I had ever sent him, dating back to the late 1980s, and before. It is hard to describe how I felt when I started to look at them. The first thing that dawned on me was that I had not kept any that he sent me. I have never been a keeper of letters, despite corresponding with many friends over the years. I was touched that his son Jim had sent them to me. I have no doubt that Pete kept and filed similar correspondence from many of his friends, and hope that they might have received similar parcels.
I tried to read some of the letters. It is strange reading something that you wrote to send to someone else. Not something that you would normally ever do. Once those thoughts and words had been posted, they tended to be forgotten, unless they were referred to in the reply. I looked at the dates, the different addresses, saw more than thirty years of my life in writing and print. Then I closed the folder again. I am not sure that I am ready to read those thoughts once again. Not just yet, anyway.
Even in death, Pete proved what a friend he was, and left me a legacy that has no price.