When someone dies in a random accident, you can view it as a cruel twist of fate, or him being unlucky. When someone dies of old age, or illnesses associated with it, you can almost bring yourself to understand it. As much as anyone can ever understand death. As much as you can ever understand the grief of losing a loved one.
But murder… murder is senseless. It’s the brutal taking of someone else’s life for reasons that, no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to begin to comprehend.
I guess after so many years in the Service, you should come to expect that sometimes, those you love won’t make it home. You like to imagine that one day the time will come when you are emotionally equipped to deal with it. The truth is though, you never are.
I was calm when I received the message that he had died; I was in the middle of a meeting, halfway around the world, there wasn’t the time to break down and cry. I held it together the entire flight home to London. I comforted his brother, and held his little sister while she sobbed on my shoulder. I was composed when I said my final goodbyes and watched the casket being lowered into the ground.
I held it together the entire day for his family; I looked after them just like I knew Chris would want me to. It was only as we were leaving the graveyard that it hit me. His brother placed his dogtags on top of the grave, and suddenly the memories hit me with full force.
I remembered the day he’d first arrived, with them hanging around his neck, so proud to be a part of MI6. I remembered all the late nights, his feet up on my desk, twisting them between his fingers as he shared a hundred and one stories from his days in the military. I remembered the first field operation he ever ran, and how, just before leaving, he handed them to me and asked me to keep them safe. I remembered handing them back to him when he came home. I remembered the cheeky smile when he threw them across the room to me when he stepped into the training ring for that last time. And all the moments in between.
Chris had grown up a military brat and literally bled God Save The Queen. I’ve never known anyone more proud of his country and prouder to be serving it. Those dogtags were his life. He had entrusted me with them. He’d trusted me with his life.
That life was now over.
It wasn’t really until that moment that I realized he was really gone. He wasn’t going to walk back through my office door, almost knocking it off its hinges, he wasn’t going to come running down the corridor in a few days time and pick me up and swing me around, that bright smile almost splitting his face in two. He wasn’t going to turn up on my doorstep at 2am on Friday nights and we were never going to go driving around London again hashing out various operations with the music turned up loud. He was never going to take another flying lesson with me. He was never going to buy that Porsche that he wanted. He was gone.
All that is left is the emptiness that comes from knowing he should be there. To sit in that armchair, and put his big size fourteen feet on my coffee table, wearing that same plaid shirt he’d had for years. It’s knowing that he will never pick up that old scarf that he left over at mine one night the winter previous. It’s knowing that I will never get to hear what he thought about that Reba song that I’d sent him the YouTube link to only hours previous. It’s knowing that the liquorice that I kept in my cupboard, just for him will remain uneaten. It remained there, the packet opened, barely touched until I brought myself to finally throw it out. It’s knowing that never again will I sit in his backyard, laughing at him as once again he hits his fingers with the hammer as he tries, unsuccessfully, to once again repair the deck. It’s knowing that never again will he bring me flowers from that garden, just because he knows how much I love sunflowers.
When we lose someone, we search our memories for our favourite moments with that person, for those memories to cling onto as time passes, we look for the biggest, the most brilliant, laugh out loud moments, for the sentimental and the sensational. But really, the most important ones are all the ordinary moments in between.
Today, a year on, I walk past what was once his office, and I wish so much that I could walk in there and throw down the latest case file and tell him to write his report once again, because, as usual, his grammar is appalling, and watch him pout childishly and beg for me to let him off ‘just this once’. I wish I could sit down with him and watch stupid movies and throw popcorn at each other when we get bored, or just kick back in the break room, while he makes both of us hot chocolate, because it’s almost midnight and both of us are still working. That hot chocolate always sucked, he never made it right, but today, I would love to drink it just one more time.
But most of all, I would love to get a hug from him just one more time. For him to pick me up and hug me so tightly I would complain I couldn’t breathe. Today, I wouldn’t complain, I’d let him hug me as tightly as he wanted to, for as long as he liked. I would do anything to have him stand in front of me, alive, in the flesh, touchable and huggable.
So today, for me, please tell those you love, that you love them, take a moment to savour the feeling, their smile, their hugs, all those little moments that make up your life with them. Because one day they’ll be gone and those moments will be all that you have left. Hold onto the value of each moment before it becomes a memory, you never know when it will be the last time you’ll ever experience it.
Chris, I still miss you buddy. We had a good ride. I’ll treasure the laughter and never forget the tears. You left me with a million and one memories that will burn forever in my mind. Thanks for being my own personal big footed clown. Thank you for believing in me, inspiring me and pushing me to go further, to do more, and to live up to my own potential. I wish you were here to see all I’m doing now. You were the best friend a girl could wish for, and a truly incredible man. I hope you know how proud of you I was.