I had a series of messages a couple of weeks ago from different social media contacts informing me of the death of a mutual friend. He became ill a month or so ago and whilst at one time they thought he might be recovering he went into a sudden decline and sadly passed away. This came as a shock but I guess these things happen and life moves on.
Yesterday I was trawling through my contacts database looking for people to invite to write guest posts for the trefor.net VoIP week next week and I came across his name. This gave me a genuine problem. Not whether to invite him to write a post but whether to delete his contact details. It didn’t seem right that he should be wiped from my virtual hard drive like that but what was the point of keeping his email address?
Obviously everybody dies and we all hope to reach a decent old age before it happens to us. He was 58. At 75 or 80 we consider someone to have had a good innings and don’t grieve so much but when it happens to a younger person it hits us more.
A school classmate of mine went in her twenties. I last saw her in a pub in the Isle of Man where she tried to persuade me to come to a reunion. It was timed for the day after our ferry home was booked so I couldn’t go. I found out a few month later that she had died of leukaemia and the reunion was planned as her last farewell. That made me pause for reflection.
An old university friend died four years ago in tragic circumstances. She was my age, around 47/48 at the time. It was a great shock and I wrote her a poem1 which I posted on her Facebook timeline and which was read by her family and friends. The timeline began to fill with spammy trivia and invitations to play games automatically broadcast by people to all their friends. I stopped looking because I didn’t want her memory tainted by such rubbish. I’m sure social media platforms have processes for dealing with such circumstances though the notion of there being a process doesn’t quite feel appropriate here.
In the long run none of us matter. We are all mere blips in an incomprehensibly long universal timeline. But as people and communities in the here and now we have to recognise that we are all that matters and the fact that someone is no longer with us is deserving of some consideration.
My friend who just died was Simon Gwatkin. I first met him when I was developing VoIP chips at Mitel Semiconductor. He ran marketing at Mitel Telecom. We kept bumping into each other in exotic bars around the world. Singapore and Geneva spring to mind. When Terry Matthews2 bought back Mitel Telecom. I crossed over to work with Simon developing SIP handsets and then systems.
Our ways eventually parted. Simon ended up working for Sir Terry at his VC arm Wesley Clover but we still contrived to “bump into each other” on different occasions and he came to one of the trefor.net UC Executive Dinners in London last year. Simon also invited me to watch the Wales Open Golf at the Celtic Manor Resort – he is the guy in the cream linen jacket sat in front of me on my right in the fourth photo in this post. As I recall in the pic we are drinking Gwatkin cider at the Clytha Arms cider festival.
This is a difficult time for his family but they should take some comfort from the fact that everyone who came into contact with Simon loved him and thought him a great bloke. He will be missed by many. I’m going to leave him in my contacts list. What’s the hurry?
RIP Simon Gwatkin. A lovely bloke…
1 You can read the poem on my creative writing site philospherontap.com here.
2 Terry together with Mike Copeland was one of the original founders of Mitel – the Terry in MIke and TErry’s Lawnmowers.