When Lennon was shot McCartney went to work and I was horrified.

When John Lennon was shot Paul McCartney went to work and I was horrified. I’d never been a big fan of McCartney, always a Lennon fanatic, and I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t pulverised by the bloody awful painful grief that was ripping my stomach (and millions of other stomachs) open.
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Since then I’ve sadly buried both my birth parents, both my foster parents, my sister, my grandson and more friends than I care to remember and though I’m still no fan of McCartney I’m not so critical of what he did when Lennon died.

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Last weekend I spent several days at the bedside of my closest friend who (only a few weeks ago) had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and who was now receiving end of life care from his newly married wife; they’d married secretly two weeks previously in the hospice after a ten year relationship. The tumour hid itself very well from scans and it wasn’t until my friend began throwing up that he realised something was wrong. What was wrong was that the tumour had grown so big it was pressing on the bowel allowing nothing through hence why he was throwing up? Both my friend and his wife were qualified doctors – in fact my friend had also been my GP for more than 20 years. Eventually, after an exploratory operation, they both agreed that since there was nothing more the hospice could do that they would go home and await the inevitable. In desperation I asked my friend why he couldn’t have peg-feeding, reassuring him that I’d peg-fed people successfully myself only for him to say as kindly as possible ‘Alan what’s the point?’. His gentle acceptance of his situation was probably the most moving thing I’ve ever seen.

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My time with my old friend was priceless and gave me yet more wonderful memories to cherish. We laughed out loud at old times and reminisced about musical evenings we had both been involved in. We paralleled my annual Autumn Suppers (when I would make a massive bowl of stew and invite 60 musicians and their partners to my house for the weekend) with his upmarket dinner parties when he would flaunt his fabulous culinary skills producing the paella of the century. 

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For a man who began life with no shoes on the back streets of Malaysia and then rise to become a doctor and consultant dermatologist spending his entire life supporting others he had my absolute respect. And although we shared childhood similarities we also enjoyed and celebrated each other’s unique adult differences; in guitar playing he was jazz and I was rock and roll, in food he was oysters I was pies, in cars he was as good as it got – and mine was older than me. 

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As an unlikely pair of friends – a sort of rough and smooth – over time we became quite a ying and yang to the point that (to me) he became the brother I never had albeit ten years younger than me. I loved him so much.

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Sadly today at 7am, about 12.5 hours ago, my old friend passed away peacefully in his sleep. To the end his biggest worry was for his patients and their ongoing care. Though grieving and furiously angry at the unfairness of such a wonderful man being taken at 50, I went to work because I know he would have wanted me to. I spent time with a family who, when their daughter is born in January 2017, will need an immediate operation for a thinning aorta; I then spent time supporting a single mum of six children with all manner of challenges before finishing my day spending two hours with a dad who had totally lost all of his confidence and self esteem. 

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I went to work because my friend would have wanted me to. I went to work but because I also needed to.

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I’ll probably never be a McCartney fan. But I’ll never slate him again for doing what he did.

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