Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Death Of A Friend

Springsteen performing on the Tunnel of Love E...Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday one of my closest friends passed away after a 10-year battle with cancer. His name is Dale.

Dale was my first friend when my family first moved to Stanley, on Tasmania's far North-West Coast in 1979. We shared an interest in Australian Rules football, cricket and tennis. Dale was a big guy. Very strong and agile but shunned accolades. Dale was the ultimate 'quiet achiever' despite the fact that he excelled at most sports. The only sport that I could get the upper hand on Dale was soccer. Having said this, soccer was the only game that I played prior to arriving in Australia, so I should have got the upper hand.

Dale first caught my attention with his dark yet subtle humour. Not many picked up on it but I'm so

pleased that I did. There were occasions on the school bus or passing each other in the corridors of the nearby Smithton High School that we couldn't look at each other for fear of bursting into hysterical laughter. Dale was a year ahead of me at High School and we deliberately avoided each other as much as possible due to the aforementioned hysterical (and possibly inappropriate) laughter.

Not once did Dale and I have anything remotely like an argument. The closest was a humorous about Bruce Springsteen. Dale was a fan. I wasn't. Dale would often say the he really was "The Boss" as portrayed in the press. I questioned this. "What's he the boss of, Dale?" His response? "The Boss of everything." Typically, the laughter started....again. Dale and I had no secrets. He wasn't the sort to have secrets. Dale was as honest as the day is long.

When I started Matriculation College in Burnie, an hours drive West of Stanley, Dale and I would usually hook up at some point over the weekend. One such occasion put both of us off cider forever. We bought three bottles between us and found a secluded spot on one of Stanleys beaches. Things were going fine until we were half way through the second bottle. It was decidedly warm. We persevered through it but with that third hot bottle looming, our thumping headaches put paid to any chance of it being opened. We moved to a large bush for shade and actually fell asleep for about an hour.

Dales parents welcomed me to their home in the warmest possible way. They truly are great people.

Once I moved up the coast (almost) permanently in 1986 to begin nursing, we lost contact until 2007. By this stage I was a divorced father of two and recovering alcoholic. Dale was now married to an outstanding wife and had three great children. He was working in his family's shop. I had only heard about his battle with cancer a few weeks before finally catching up with Dale. On entering the shop, both our faces lit up. We went to his office and basically told society what we thought of it. No-one was spared but not once did Dale and I ever make fun of individuals. It was all very generalised humour, applicable to any town in the world.

As the months went by, I could see Dale's condition fluctuate. These fluctuations began to be more frequent and more severe.

Two days ago I took my children to the pool in Smithton. Some time around 3.30pm I said to my

children that it was time to head home. I was driving out from the pool and had an 'urge' to see Dale, who's house is about three minutes away. I arrived at his home where his Mother-In-Law was just about to leave. There were no other cars in the driveway. After introducing myself, Dale's Mother-In-Law told me that he was in hospital.

I rang Dale's wife and she said that it would be fine to visit. On arrival, Dale was very drowsy so I didn't want to rouse him too much for fear of causing pain. It was Dale's wife who said to Dale that I was there. He said my name, smiled and reached out his left arm to me. I took his hand, stroked his arm and whispered to him to rest.

As a retired State Registered Nurse of some 20+ years, I have never lost my composure. I did on this occasion as I didn't want to upset Dale, his wife and his parents who were maintaining a vigil. I left the room briefly and returned for another minute or two. Dale held his arm out again and I took his hand again. I could feel my composure slipping again. I told Dale that I had to go and that I'd see him soon enough in a place that only him and I know about. On my way out of the room, tears were running down my face. I could only manage a wave to Dale's wife and parents.

Something made me look back at Dale. He was smiling. That smile will be in my mind forever.

Dale passed away less than 24 hours later. He was 45.

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  1. I'm Sorry for your loss of a friend , Bob. No Doubt Dale is reading this, why wouldnt he? Its a beautiful entry. <3 My Condolences to Donna and his immediate family.

  2. I'm Sorry for your loss, Bob. No Doubt Dale is reading this, why wouldnt he? Its a beautiful entry. <3 My Condolences to Donna and his immediate family.

    1. Thanks Indie Storm. I write this 'straight off the bat.' No spell-check or proofreading. I guess situations like this dig deeper than our normal 'being.'

    2. Dale LOVED Robert Finaly!!! He ALWAYS had time for him! xxxx