Statement of Intention

My inspiration for this piece came when I read 'Hamlet' by Shakespeare for the 2nd or 3rd time. His feelings of regret and responsibility in Ophelia's death, because he hadn't expressed his love for her truthfully. When she was dead there was nothing he could do. He couldn't bring her to life, take back his words or change the past. Hamlet reminded me of my feelings of regret when my friend died. I intended this piece for both teenagers and adults alike. To remind everyone to stop for a second in the world's whirlwind and remember that life can be short. Smile, help others and care, for you never know if you will get the chance to change the past.

Written as a folio piece, July 1999.

Life Until Death

It has been a long time now; I don't really like to remember it. I buried a friend, one who could never be forgotten but was, until he was gone. He meant so much to everyone who knew him. He gave a smile or a helping hand whenever you needed but when he needed us, we weren't there.

His name, Raymond. I knew him all my life, he went to the same church as I did. We weren't really that close but he came to mean a lot to all of us. The year he passed away, he was supposed to complete his last year in 'Friends', a class in our church's Pathfinder group. A Pathfinder is a bit like a Scout. We learn about the bush, wilderness survival, craft and religion. But mostly how to build a stronger relationship with God. I was his teacher and his friend. Although he was 22 and I was younger, he treated me with respect and never gave me any trouble, in fact he used to help me control the others in the class. Ray was in 'Friends' because it was the only class he hadn't done yet. Really, he should have been one of the leaders like me.

Ray was an epileptic; he wore a silver bracelet on his wrist, with 'SOS' engraved in red letters. It was a medical alert bracelet. If ever he were in trouble, someone would know whom to contact and what medical condition he had. He was very tall, a little more than six foot, I think. He was fairly lean and had pale skin almost like a doll's complexion. His strength and will power I'll never forget; he never stopped fighting for whatever he wanted to achieve.

One day Ray forgot to take his medication, he collapsed in church, spasms raking his left side. One man had tears in his eyes while trying to help Ray. This man told me later, "He is so young, it hurts me to see suffering like this."

It was about July and I was sick at home with the flu. Ray rode his bike and gave a get-well card to my brother, to give to me. I wasn't that sick but the thought was so sweet. When I read the card now, I feel like crying. Not more than a month after that, Raymond fell sick. At first most of us thought, it must be just his epilepsy playing up. After a few weeks, Ray's Pathfinder class started to ask where he was. I bought a card and got them to write to him, their notes where very cute. I sent it to him. We then found out that Ray had a brain tumor.

He was sent to a special medical institution where they tried to treat him. After awhile they sent him home, for there wasn't much they could do.

During that time Pathfinders had finished for the year and I had transferred schools. Discovering that he lived just across from where I now went to school, I promised myself that I would go and visit him. When I did, I saw just how sick he really was. He spoke very slowly because the attacks had made him forget a lot of things. I was surprised at how much he actually understood. I talked about Pathfinders, school and church. He was very pale and thin; he had lost all his hair from the radiation treatments. Although he must have known then that he wasn't going to get better, he seemed very positive. That was the last time I saw him...

Months passed, I was at home when dad came with the news. "Ray died. His mum thought he was just sleeping, till she tried waking him." He was gone. I really couldn't think and I didn't speak, my heart spoke, "It's too soon for him to leave us." I hadn't made the effort to see him. I had missed my chance to see him one last time.

The funeral was on Friday morning, in our church. At the close of the funeral ceremony the Pathfinders stood in ranks and saluted, as the coffin passed through. It was the most solemn and respectable I'd seen any of the kids be. Not one of them was out of line or slouching. All standing straight, eyes are staring into space, not wanting to focus on the long narrow shape passing before them. I didn't go to the viewing before the funeral, I prefer to remember how he was while he was alive, laughing, joking, and being helpful. He always seemed to be happy. My dad said that he was very pale, bald and his face was swollen almost beyond recognition. I almost choked on my already swollen throat, I was fighting back emotions. Ray would have been strong, I could almost hear him say, "It's not the end, we'll meet again."

At the cemetery, all the brave fronts crumbled as the music played, while the coffin was being lowered into the ground. One of my friends, clung to me as the musicians played their song. Even though it started to rain and the wind was blowing through me. I shivered from the loss of a friend rather than the cold. We went from the funeral to a campsite not far away. The Pathfinder's had planned a camp-out, they hadn't planned on a funeral. Nevertheless, the camp went on. A pastor came to talk to us on Saturday afternoon about Ray, God and why things happen the way they do. He asked us to share whatever we where thinking. Times spent with Ray. There were many tears after all the stories were told. We lost a great friend, who lightened our burdens with support, understanding and humor. There are many stories told of how he touched our lives. This was part of mine.