I am sure J must have wondered what on earth he had let himself in for when I first moved into his spare room although he always denied having any misgivings when I later asked him about his impressions of our first encounter.
I was naturally very cautious of J and his offer of assistance despite T’s assurances about him – I couldn’t help this as I had come to expect that any offer of help would come at a price. J proved me wrong though, and in doing so he restored my faith in humanity and set me on a path towards healing; something which I am eternally grateful for.
I was very upfront, to the point of being rude, with J when we arrived at his house – I told him that I was an atheist and that I wouldn’t be converted to his religion, nor would I cook meat for him as I am a vegetarian. He merely smiled and said it was all ok with him as his offer of assistance was based purely on the fact that a fellow human being needed a hand up. He could clearly tell that I was skeptical as when he showed me the spare room in which I was to stay he offered to get a bolt fitted to the inside of the door in order to make me to feel more secure. I declined his offer in favour of putting a chair under the door handle which, I am ashamed to say, I did for the first week of my stay.
Once I had unpacked my stuff I went to make J some dinner and it was at that point that I discovered he was a fellow Star Trek fan. I went to set the table in his dining room and found a bookcase filled with Star Trek videos, I was almost giddy with excitement and he offered to let me pick out a video to watch after dinner. We chatted about our shared love of Star Trek well into the wee small hours and I felt much more comfortable in his company at the end of the night. Over the next few weeks we talked a lot about Star Trek and I began to open up about what had happened to me in the past that had led to me ending up accepting R’s behaviour towards me. J was a great listener and very supportive. He helped me see that I didn’t deserve to be treated the way I had been by R and that I could move on from it.
A couple of weeks after moving in to J’s place I got the results of my degree studies – I passed with an upper second class honours (2:1) which was better than I had expected. With J’s encouragement I applied for jobs that I would previously only ever have dreamt of trying for. The first few interviews were pretty rubbish as I was still feeling very raw from the split with my husband but as my confidence began to grow so did my performance at interviews. This was all down to J’s belief in me.
Eventually I was offered an amazing job but it was based in another country, over 200 miles away from where I was currently living. I was torn about taking it at first as despite the fact that I didn’t have strong ties to town I had built up a good friend base through work and J which I was reluctant to leave. My University Tutor, J and my work colleagues all told me that I would be daft to turn down such a good offer of employment and they were right but leaving them all was a massive wrench to me – a testament to how much they had all come to mean to me.
And so for the second time I made preparations to leave town and begin a new life; this time in a much more stylish fashion than before as my new employer delivered a company car to me and offered to cover any relocation expenses including a rental deposit on a flat.
I left it right up until the last minute to leave, spending as much time with J and my work colleagues as I could. The day before I left I took J out for a drive in my company car, we went up to a view point and watched the sunset together, he told me that he has happy for me and that he hoped I would keep him updated on how I was getting on in my new life. I told him how hard it had been for me to decide to leave and that I would keep in touch and hoped he would come to visit me at Christmas. J then dropped a bombshell on me, he told me that he would be moving into his parent’s house in the next few weeks as his illness was now at a terminal stage. He apologised for keeping it from me, he said that he hadn’t wanted me to feel obliged to stay out of sympathy for him. I was devastated by the news and wanted to reverse my decision about taking the job but he made me promise that I would give it my best shot and make him proud of me.
True to my word I kept in touch with J as much as I could, I sent him photographs of my new flat, places I visited for work and called him every evening to tell him about my day. In return he sent me letters and mix tapes for me to listen to in my car when travelling for work, I loved coming home to find post from J. My Grandad also wrote to me, he sent letters out via my step-dad and I replied via him so that my Gran didn’t know we were in touch. Grandad was overjoyed that I had a good job and was delighted that I was settling into my new home.
J’s parents invited me to stay with them at Christmas and I accepted their kind offer. When I arrived it was clear that J had declined very rapidly since I had last seen him, he had lost half his body weight and could no longer get out of bed, despite this his spirit was intact and I spent as much time as I could by his bedside telling him about my new job and watching Star Trek films. J’s parents were incredibly warm and welcoming, they made me feel like a member of the family despite having only met me briefly before at parties hosted by T’s family. I think it was my first glimpse of what family life could be like and I was touched to be a part of it.
T and N came to visit at New Year and persuaded me to go out on the town with them to bring in the New Year. I wasn’t keen at first but J insisted I should go out and party and so we went out to a pub and had a great deal of fun.
I spent most of New Year’s day sitting with J, he was sleeping a great deal at this point but I was happy just to sit with him. He asked me about my new year’s resolutions and I told him I didn’t have any, he then suggested I make a resolution to try dating and I told him I wasn’t interested in dating. I told him that I was happy with my own company and that I didn’t mind if I spent the rest of my life alone as it would still be better than life with my soon-to-be ex-husband. J told me that I shouldn’t let the past experience with R put me off; I told him that I was comfortable with the idea of being alone and that it didn’t matter to me that no one found me lovable. J then changed my world forever when he told me that I should never think I am unlovable, that I was worthy of love and I would find it one day. At first I dismissed his assertions, I told him that he was sweet for saying it but I didn’t feel I was the kind of person someone could love. He told me that I was wrong and I said, “Ok, we’ll see then, maybe one day.” He then said, “I know you are wrong because you are loved, I love you, I really love you and I have for some time now. I didn’t want to say anything before as the last thing you needed when settling into a new job was to start a long-distance love affair with a terminally ill man but to hell with it, I can’t leave this world without telling you that you deserve love, you are loved and you will find more love in your future.” I stared at him in silence for an age, I didn’t know what to say, I was overwhelmed but I knew he was telling the truth and for the first time in my life I finally knew what it was like to feel real, romantic love. I could barely speak for the massive lump in my throat but I kissed him on the forehead and said, “Thank you, I love you too.” We sat together in silence for some time after that and then as J was dozing on and off I left him alone and went to bed.
When I woke up the next morning I bumped into J’s Family Doctor on the landing, he was just leaving J’s room and behind him was J’s Dad who was crying. I knew immediately that it was bad news, J’s Dad looked ashen when I asked what had happened, he nodded at the Doctor who then told me that J had passed away in his sleep a few hours ago. I felt like someone had stabbed me with a knife and I fell to the floor immediately.
The next week was awful, I had to take time off work as I was having such terrible trouble sleeping and by the time of J’s funeral I looked like a panda because the bags under my eyes were so big. His funeral was beautiful though, he had requested that it be a celebration of his life and beliefs as opposed to a mourning of his passing and it was exactly that. He asked that everyone attending wear their favourite colour rather than black or grey and instead of hymns he had his favourite Queen songs played which we were all encouraged to sing along to. It was a fitting tribute to a wonderful person and I was privileged to have known him.