I wrote this piece a few weeks ago, just after the extremely untimely and heartbreaking death of a good friend of many of ours, Mick Baldwin.
However much death you may or may not have experienced in your life, you never expect someone to die. You may be scared of losing your parents or grandparents or children or friends, but you never actually expect them to die. If a death happens it always comes as a shock, no matter how old or young the person is. One day a person is standing by your side, laughing at a silly joke you just made, and the next they are gone, lying in a coffin, their soul elsewhere, their physical presence gone from this world.
There I was, sitting on a beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica, enjoying the last full day of my holiday when I received two texts, both saying the same thing… “I’m sorry to send you this on your vacation, but Mick died in a car accident last night.”
My immediate reaction was an inability to speak or to believe that it had actually happened. How could something so terrible occur while I was sitting in paradise? Why was I not next to my friends when they received the news so that we could all cry together? Why him and not one of the incredible amount of disgusting people who are still alive on this earth? How could someone who brought so many people together be removed from our lives in such a manner?
The past week has been surreal. I was unable and incapable of believing that someone so full of life and love could just disappear like that, one wrong turn and gone, leaving his family and large group of friends to grieve his passing. We had a benefit at the bar on Tuesday and the turnout was amazing – the place was crowded from 7pm until after closing, laughter and tears and music that Mick would have loved. A lot of drinking, many, many hugs, stories that made us laugh and cry at the same time, and a very generous amount of donations to help pay for funeral home costs in the US and travel back home to be buried in England.
No. It still can’t be true.
I kept thinking he was going to pop into the bar on his bike and laugh at us all, and then join in the party. But then again, I think I wasn’t the only one who was thinking that. How could we have a party for him and him not be present for it? I’m sure he was there… Just not in the physical form.
There were so many times when Mick and I worked together that I wanted to shout at him. He never cleaned the bar properly or brought up ice and always forgot his phone after his shifts. The amount of times that me, or one of our other friends helped him close the bar after a shift was infuriating, but at the same time became a running joke between us. I could never stay irritated at him for more than five minutes because you just couldn’t. You just couldn’t stay angry at Mick – he would flash his cheeky grin, say something funny or silly and have you in fits of laughter. Ironically, he finished his last shift at the bar before leaving for his new job, and made a point of filling the ice for me so that I didn’t have to do it. And that one time made me forget the many, many other times he had forgotten to do it.
When Mick moved upstate to his new job and home I didn’t remain as much in contact with him, which saddens me now. I missed our conversations about music and now always will. I’ll always imagine him making everyone in his new life happy and him continuing to make new friends and bringing them together with his old friends. That’s just what he did.
There was a wake and memorial for Mick at the Bleecker Funeral Home on Thursday. Jamie and I went together, for mutual support and I am very glad we did. I wasn’t aware that it would be an open casket wake, something that I already have trouble dealing with, and am glad that one of our friends warned us before we went in. We sat in the seats by the casket, and watched the slide show of images that was showing on the screen. Carl did an amazing job with the play list as it was a perfect mix of songs that Mick loved and that also worked well with the setting and the occasion.
Yes. It finally appeared to be real.
The body in the casket was Mick, but not Mick at the same time. It was a copy of his physical form, without the life and party and happiness that embodied him. My legs wanted to get up and bolt out of the room and the place and run away somewhere where I could cry away from everyone, but my mind forced them to stay, and listen to the memorial and the wonderful and heartbreaking speeches given by his sister, family and close friends. Jo, Paul, Kenny and Carl were amazing in their words – they nailed Mick’s personality and love of life in the exact way that we all see and saw him. In the end it was hard to break myself away from the seat I was sitting on as there were tears and sadness, but ultimately a sense of peace in the room.
I walked over to work with Jamie and Checho, feeling so sad and angry. However real it finally was, I still didn’t really want to believe it. Friends are not supposed to die – they are meant to grow old with you, so that you can all walk down the street with walking sticks together and drink Guinness in the pub whilst chatting about the good old days when Mick danced on the pole on the bar or when Jamie beat Paul at darts or when we were all out dancing until 8am.
RIP Mick – you died too young but will be remembered forever in our lives.