I just found out before that an old friend of mine died last week. His name was Paul Cannon, but almost every called him Yogi, as in Yogi bear, because he was bubbly, friendly, and on the large side.
I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and so was he. I was always eager to be in with all the “cool” crowd, like any teenager I suppose, and maybe that’s why Yogi was so popular, because he knew and got on with everyone. He seemed to be everybody’s friend!
He could always make people laugh, but he wasn’t afraid to laugh himself, or at himself.
He had dreams of writing films, producing and directing movies. He had travelled to Cannes and Hollywood to visit events and further his dream.
But I remember being told he had Hodgkin’s disease a few year’s ago. I was gutted for him, but unfortunately we moved in different circles so I never saw him for some time after that. He went into remission a few times I think.
He deconverted from the JW faith some time after me, yet we didn’t see each other much, except from an odd game of snooker one Saturday afternoon and a corridor passing in the local Recreation Centre, spanning a few years.
I always find when you meet someone after a few years who you used to be good friends with, it’s almost more awkward than meeting someone who you didn’t know that well, because small-talk isn’t really an option because you’ll both recognise it in each other, and you can’t really talk about the “deeper” things or common interests, or people you know because, well, you don’t really know each other anymore.
That’s kinda how I felt when I passed Paul in the Rec corridor last year, but the truth is, I would have loved to had stayed and talked more but you can’t do that properly in a corridor, and we were both in a rush anyway. I distinctly remember saying that I had to go but would be right back and I thought instantly that it must have sounded like I was just making my excuses to leave. But I did actually plan to come back.
I realise that was the last time I saw him.
I hated school. When I left after 6th and had a large group of friends I really started to grow as a person and become myself. This was from about age 17 onwards. Now, I’m nowhere near the same person as I was, but I will always think fondly of those times, between 17 and 21. Playing snooker, flirting with the girls in the congregation, walking around the JW conventions, always being in a big crowd, there always being something to gossip about. Summer evenings, double-dates, house parties, laughs. And for me, Paul was an integral part of that. It would be impossible for me to think back on those times without remembering him. In fact, the more I think back now on that time, the more I actually realise all the things we did! I realise that we were closer than I thought at the time.
I wonder if he knows how many people’s lives he affected?
I’m an atheist, which means I can’t hope to see him again. Ever. That still stings, because for the majority of my life of course I believed that anyone who’s died would be resurrected. But that’s not true.
My friend is gone. No room will ever echo again with his hilarious high-pitched shameless laugh. Nor will he make anyone else laugh hysterically like he did so many times.
I can’t offer hope of reunion or anything else to his relatives and friends, and I hold none myself.
All I can say is what I’d say if Paul could hear me now: “You’ll be missed mate. You were a top bloke. And we had some great times. Thanks for the memories.”
It’s not fair.
All I can do is the most anyone can do really, and that is, remember you.