It was a Love Story. Young man meets young woman, they fall in love, she dies from cancer. We have seen it on the movies, and it feels like a cliche. That is - until it brushes up against your life.
I was not a close friend of his, and I don't want to draw people to this site by using his name. It would feel wrong if my traffic went up because I write about him. Links will have to do - pagerank for his site, not mine. Why do I still write? Because he was a person who always gave me an insight or at least a better - or different - feeling about things when our paths crossed. Those people are important and should be cherished.
We studied the same subject for a while, shared a spot at the computer lab. His working hours and mine complemented each other - when I had dropped the kids off in the morning and came to work on my masters thesis he had left just a few hours ago. When he arrived in the afternoon I had just cleaned up and left. Occasionally we met at both ends - if either of us were late or really early. At parties he was not the rowdiest person there, but he was the person people wanted to be close to; brilliantly intelligent, creative, musical and a poet - and a nice person too, what was not to love about him? And we did love him, even those who, like me, only knew him in the casual way of people who like each other but live very different lives.
He loved a girl who also studied the same as I did at the time. I had to check the interview with him to remember her name, our encounters were not even conversations. But she was beautiful, and he shone when he looked at her, even I saw that past my veil of busy-ness. When she was pregnant he had this amazing smile when he talked about it.
Then she got cancer, and chose the child over chemotherapy. The doctors thought they had been able to remove the cancer through operation, but once the child was born the tumors were found to have spread and there was nothing more to be done. She died shortly after their daughter was born, leaving him a single father, leaving their child motherless. I met him once before she died. I had not talked to him or heard news since I had heard she was all better. My life was chaotic, I had been in a car accident and ruined my knee, tried to cope with my first real job and struggled to feed a small family while on sick leave. Yes, I felt very sorry for myself. He was waiting for his great love and the mother of his child to die. All my worries shrunk and withered into nothing right there.
Even today the memory of his calm description of her suffering makes me cry. Perhaps more so today. We were so young. In his grief he still spoke with wisdom and love. He was a father. It redefined his life.
I didn't see him much since. I left Bergen, and our paths crossed only a few times - a nod on the street, a quick "hello, how are you doing?" But I heard of him from mutual friends. I heard about his life with the child, his creativity and his achievements. He never promoted himself, but to those of us who knew about him the world was a little richer for his presence in it. The choices he made were not easy, not mainstream nor conventional. In this way he was a living reminder that it is possible to grow, develop and create outside of square boxes.
He died in September. The story of his life is powerful and touching, almost overwhelming, and he had accumulated a lot of friends: creative, active friends who took action once they heard he would die from cancer. They created a record with his music, to his tribute, and he sings on it himself. The money goes into a fund for the child.
I heard some of the music he wrote on the radio today. His words asked for the lost time, if he could have it back. The song was called "Madelen" - not his love's name, but I still guessed it had to be about her death. The lyric conveys a great loss without being specific, through imagery and tender poetry. I was never so close to him that I qualify as a grieving friend, but hearing his words I still grieve. What I grieve is the loss of the promise his aquaintance always was. As long as he was alive we could have happened to meet, gone for a coffee and had a long chat. Doing this I would have learned something new, gained a new insight or felt different about something unexpected. Now that is all lost time.