On Friends and Smiles, Laughter not Tears by Emma Garrett
In Loving memory of Richard Patrick Garrett 13th May 1967 – 22nd December 2018
The trouble with being asked to write an obituary for my husband Rich is that he was a larger than life character and I have no idea how to do justice to the giant who has been by my side for the past 35 years, married for 26 of these.
It is hard to believe he has gone. His side of the bed waits for him to slide in. His clothes are piled up on his chair.
His towel warms on the towel rail. His coat hangs expectantly in the cupboard and the dog lies by the door ever hopeful that his master will return.
At home, we all imagine we can hear the key in the lock and yearn for the familiar sight of a slightly dishevelled and hungry Daddy bear bounding in with a smile and a joke, a story to tell from his day’s adventure and a reassuring bear hug for us all.
As the Daddy of five bear cubs life was rough and tumble all the way, he always made sure there was never a dull moment.
But Rich is not coming back. My husband, my rock, my soulmate, my lover, my partner, my best friend, the father of my children is not coming back.
After 9 years fighting cancer as a patient of The Primrose Unit at Bedford Hospital, he could fight no more. He died with humour and dignity, at peace, at St John’s Hospice Moggerhanger, surrounded by his loved ones.
It was both heart-wrenching and a great honour to be with him to the end, witnessing first-hand his seemingly limitless ability to care for those he met, his Herculean strength of character and the deep meaningful love he instilled in others.
As one friend put it “He always showed us how to make the most of life and now he’s shown us how to die with incredible courage too”
Another said: “He died a very wealthy man – not ready to go, but satisfied with the legacy that is his family and friends”. And this incredible legacy has been noted by so many.
Ella Risbridger wrote in The Guardian earlier this year about friends. It struck a chord with me: ‘It’s the same word for somebody you’ve just met as for some who has known you your whole life’
My friend Lisa said the same thing about Rich; “The sheer volume of condolence cards and letters you have received are testament to the bonds he was able to make with people of all ages and all walks of life, whether he knew them for years or minutes. He was a truly special man”
Rich was unlike anyone else I have ever met for many reasons, but ‘friendship’ is a common theme in the hundreds of letters and cards we have received.
“He valued his friendships so much and always ensured they were kept in good repair, with ample opportunities to get together and have fun” and “He had a wonderful knack of making you feel the most relevant person in the conversation”.
Another friend wrote; “He was one of those rare men you were delighted to find yourself sitting next to at a supper – knowing you were in for a good evening and a laugh”.
Ella Risbridger remembers the bit in the film About a Boy where tiny Nicholas Hoult in his woolly hat says, just after his mum tries to kill herself:
“That’s when I realised: two people isn’t enough. You’ve got to have backup. If there are only two people, and one of you drops off the edge, you’re on your own.”
Rich has dropped of the edge but I am not on my own. I am surrounded by the friends he made across the globe throughout his career which spanned the army, aviation and most recently the huge network he so loved through his ‘friendraising’ role at Bedford School.
We must all remember Rich with laughter and smiles and not with tears – his school friends, his Oxford Poly friends, his army friends, his expat friends, his work friends: “Richard was a true friend a man who lifted spirits, laughed kindly and regularly, was fun to be with and superb company.”
Once you were on his radar, it was very hard to escape: “I was a hopeless friend to Rich in many ways but typical of the man he was, he refused to give up on me. That makes me smile”.
How glad I am that I never dropped off that radar from that very first dance when I was 16 going on 17, 35 incredible years ago.
Richard Garrett requested that money be raised in his name for the Bedford Hospital Primrose Unit (Primrose Unit Fund 013096, Charity Number 1061003).
He had been cared for there as a patient throughout his illness and the Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice, Moggerhanger (Charity No. 1052076 Ref. No.05494), where he was brilliantly looked after in his final weeks.
- It costs £9000 a day to provide care to people in their local community
- £1100 could pay for a syringe driver to give constant symptom relief for patients – Rich used two of these to administer pain relief and anti-sickness drugs
- £500 pays for a bed for a day of inpatient care for a patient – Rich was in the hospice for 26 days at a cost of £13,000
- £140 could pay for a hospice nurse for a day
- £60 could fund a bereavement session for someone struggling to cope with the loss of a loved one