This is a strange and very sad entry. It´s also probably worth glossing over completely as it´s really not a cheery one. And to be honest, i don't even know why i`m writing this as I really don`t have any enthusiasm to write it at all. I think i´m only doing it to stay occupied so I don`t break down.
Ideally I would be now boring you all with tales from Germany and the World Cup, especially since i have been to 4 more matches (Australia v Brazil, Germany v Ecuador, Cote d´Ivoire v Serbia-Montenegro and Ghana v USA) since i last posted here, as well as seeing England fail to beat the Swede´s for the umpteenth time to my obvious huge delight. But to be honest, I can`t really. The rest of my time has been spent in hospital with my best friend, Matt, who has been battling Pancreatic cancer. He suffered from a slightly complicated strain which took time to diagnose, and in the last few months has deteriorated rapidly. Changes in his condition was one of the reasons why I almost quit whilst in Vietnam and flew back there and then, although as you know, for assorted reasons I was talked out of it.
Seeing somebody you know and love dearly after over a year is always emotional, but to see him in his current condition was devastating. When I left he was slightly ill, but not overly and it hadn`t yet been diagnosed, and he looked more or less normal. I had been kept updated on his condition and progress as i went along, and had believed that despite what i was being told, that there must be some hope left. One look at him told me there was none, and if he lasted more than a month or so it would be almost miraculous. He was in such a bad way that if i hadn`t been so shocked at his sight, and he not been partly conscious, I would probably have tried to kill him there and then to put him out of his suffering.
The drugs no longer had any effect on dulling the pain, and it had got the point where he had even cut back, deciding that if he was going to live out his time in pain, that he would prefer more pain but trying to remain as lucid as possible instead of more or less being kept alive but so drugged that he was never awake. He had more or less been keeping himself alive on will power alone, fighting on partly until i returned and partly so he could watch the World Cup in his beloved Germany. Together with another great friend, Aldo, we had tickets for a couple of games, including the aforementioned Australia v Brazil, and it was essentially Matt´s last request that we do everything possible to get him to the game. He had never seen Brazil, and it was his life´s dream. After much discussion with everybody involved (and many who weren`t) and against all medical advice, we managed to come to an arrangement whereby an ambulance was paid for and somehow with the stadiums agreement managed to get him wheel chair, drip, drugs, nurses and all to the game where we sat and watched, a group of 7 of us huddled around him in support, until midway through the second half when it just all became too much for him and we left. Despite the fact that nobody wanted to see him suffer that way at all, and all logic said it was the worst thing that we could do, the realisation that we had made a dying man happy, at least for a short time, and had fulfilled his dream and last request mean´t it was most definitely worthwhile. The decision to go probably cost him over half of his remaining life, but he was going to go out on as much a high as possible.
Matt had also made us promise (to our disgust and guilt) that under no circumstances were we to give up any other tickets that we had, and despite his condition and that he could not accompany us, we had to go. Thus it was that i went back to Berlin on a day trip for Germany - Ecuador (which was an absolutely amazing atmosphere. 70,000 happy Germans supporting their own side at home in the World Cup, and with things going well, plus a small number of wildly happy Ecuadorians who had also already qualified) and to watch Sweden v England with the 300,000 others by Brandenberg Gate, another amazing experience. The following morning I got straight off the night train and went to the hospital for the day, before Aldo and I went to Cote d´Ivoire v Serbia Montenegro that evening, back to the hospital and then I went on a day trip to Nürnberg to see Ghana v USA, where the Americans managed to loose by 1 soccer point to 2 after poor second quarter offence. Or some such. I even managed to come across the only other person draped in a large Welsh flag in Nürnberg (plus the likes of Elvis, Captain America, Dubya, the Blues Brothers, Robin [but no Batman], Flash and Wonder woman). In fairness, they were 3 decent games, and a great World Cup experience, but I just wasn`t ever really in the mood, and more or less spent the whole time there feeling guilty and wishing I wasn`t there. As soon as I could, I was back in the hospital, watching and waiting.
Matt lost his battle and died early this weekend. It is strange how you can *know* that it will end that day, for no apparent reason. But that morning we all instinctively seemed to know it would, and it was a very strange and scary experience. Aldo and I had been taking it shifts with his parents, and we phoned them to say. They arrived a couple of hours later, and all 4 of us were there at the end. Looking at him in those minutes, he looked utterly at peace and entirely relaxed, the pain which had racked his face had gone and the release from his pain was almost joyful. I had been dreading that my last image of a dear friend would be one of him in pain, but instead i have a picture of calm serenity. Because of the situation, the initial reaction all around was more of relief than anything else. It wasn´t unexpected or sudden, and he had suffered greatly, thus the feeling that the had been released from that suffering was relief.
I have almost become too accustomed to death for it to register as anything more than a kind of strange "desolate and depressingly resigned sh1t happens" kind of feeling which I can`t really describe at all. Yes, there is overriding grief, but it´s much more than that. It´s hollow, empty, guilty (part "why me?" and part "Why not me?") painful kind of feeling and for the moment that´s all i can really say.
Images from Germany v Ecuador (above) and Serbia-Montenegro v Cote d'Ivoire (below)
Nurnberg, and images from USA v Ghana, below