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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

No Pop Culture...Just Words

I know today is supposed to be the day where I draw a Clue character's name out of the bag, and I choose the topic for the Whatever Wednesday.  But, to tell you the truth, my heart's just not into it this time around.  

Yesterday, I received word that one of my dearest friends had passed away, and all this time, I've been trying to make sense of it all, but for whatever reason, none of it makes any sense at all.

And, today I want to use this space to talk about just extraordinary a man he was, the impact he had on my life and the lives of those who had the pleasure of working with him, as well as a couple of funny anecdotes about him that I will always remember for the rest of my life.

Don't think of this as a eulogy.  Instead, think of it as the story of a dear friend whose life was cut far too short.  

His name was Graham.  He was 43 years old.  And I had the wonderful fortune of meeting him and working with him in the dairy department for six years.  Even though this past year sent us off in different directions (me to electronics, him staying on the food side), we still found a way to communicate and connect with each other.  We would often talk about everything and anything, and when you saw him on the sales floor or in the lunch room, he always had a kind word to say, or cracked a joke that made everyone in the room chuckle.

I mean, Graham had this fantastic sense of humour...and it was displayed in such a way that the more he respected you and liked you, the more he traded barbs and sarcastic jabs with you.  Believe me, I have been on the receiving end of many Graham barbs.  And, you know what?  I'm probably going to miss those the most.

I mean, Graham was just the type of guy who would give you the shirt off of his back to help you.  In fact, I think I remember one instance when we were both working in the frozen foods section, and someone had swiped the jacket that I used to go inside the freezer.  He - without thinking - immediately took off his jacket so that I could wear it so I didn't freeze.  And, that was just the kind of guy he was.  I always remember him rolling up his sleeves and pitching in to help out, regardless of the area that he worked in.  

But on a personal level, Graham became one of my best friends that I have ever had in my life.  Now that he's gone, I kind of regret the fact that I never got the chance to tell him that.  I mean, I suppose when you have a strong friendship and working relationship as Graham and I had, you don't really need to tell each other how you feel about them.  They just know.

And, certainly there were instances in which Graham and I shared moments of true friendship.  Friendship that goes beyond switching shifts and going out for the occasional brewski.

I know I've talked about how I had the surgery from hell two years ago, and how my recovery was made so much easier by my co-workers as well as my closest family members.

Well, I have a story to tell you about that, and it involved Graham.  You see, my surgery was incredibly complicated, and for the first few days after my surgery, I was in the ICU.  

(Well, okay, I was technically in a "Step Down" bed that was located in the ICU.  It was still a very scary place to be.)

Now, as most of you know, in most cases, only direct family members are allowed in the Step Down unit for visitation.  So, imagine my surprise when Graham happened to find a way into the Step Down unit and paid me a visit in my room!

Keep in mind that when that hospital visit took place, I was attached to a machine that doled out morphine shots as if they were Pez candies, and I was attached to a catheter.  Certainly not my best look.  And, yet, Graham's main concern was to find out if I was okay, and he wanted to know if I needed anything, and I just thought that it was one of the coolest things that he had done.  

I still have no idea how he managed to get past the guards in order to visit me in the ICU.  And, now that he's gone, I don't think that I'll ever know the answer.  But the fact that he cared enough to visit me in the hospital that day...I mean, it meant a lot.

It just showed me that he was one of the best friends a guy could ever have.  And now that he's gone, I feel like there's a part of me that is always going to be missing.  I felt the same way when I lost another co-worker fourteen months earlier.

The one thing that I can honestly say was that Graham was one of my best friends...and I'm going to miss him dearly, as I'm sure that everyone else who worked with him will attest to.  My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family during this rough time, and I hope that wherever he might be, he is at peace and no longer in pain.

In Loving Memory of Graham Darke


  1. Matt,

    Having been in "your" store for almost a year now, I can attest to this, and I understand from the words written, the richness you have found from working with this wonderful man, and that is because I have found the same richness in only a year.

    Graham is a wonderful person, and a man of his word, if he said he was going to do something, he would do it, and he would do it for whomever with such care and such kindness.

    Matt, I will be forever grateful to have been able to share with Graham my life, through moments of laughter and cups of coffee. Since receiving the news yesterday, I have been thinking a lot about a quote that I read on the Internet some time ago, and it went like this. "We don't be the reaper by living longer, we beat the reaper by living well and living better, for the reaper will come for all of us. Is it what we do between the time we are born, and the time that he arrives that is important." And I can move on knowing that even though he is gone Graham did indeed beat the reaper, and he did that by being kind and having love in his heart.

    On a more personal note Graham, because I know you're watching - thank you for everything you've done for me over the last year, to say that you're my best friend I think would be a little bit premature, but you are indeed one of the best people I have ever met in my life. It was my honour to work with you for even such a short, short time, and my honour to be a small part of your circle of friends.

    To you Graham I bid farewell!

  2. Very well written Matt. I am sure he looked at you as a good friend also. When I heard the news, I too was deeply upset, having worked with him and knowing him, but immediately I thought of how you were going to handle the news. Through your writing I can see you are handling it quite well in your memories :) RIP Graham, until we meet again