The man he might have been

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October 1, 2012 by talkaboutyork

You enter the room. It lights up. You smile, shyly. You don’t like the attention but love that you’re surrounded by your family and friends. What you don’t realise is that everyone who sees you smile is instantly warmed inside as though they’ve just had a mouthful of comforting soup.  Your smile comes straight from your big, chocolate brown eyes. There is just the right amount of twinkle in them to hint at your mischievous side but a steady reliability and open friendliness that makes people want to be with you.

Shaking hands and slapping backs, you make your way across the bar where your wife holds a cold beer aloft, laughing in delight at having managed to surprise you with this impromptu party. You give her a mock glare but gently envelope her in a bear hug, careful not to squeeze her baby bump too hard. She tussles your shaggy,  blonde-tinged brown hair, which as always flops straight forward despite your constant attempts to sweep it to one side. It frames your face, a face that is longer and slightly more angular now than the perfect roundness of your baby years.

You turn back to the crowd of friends and say, “Cheers, thanks everyone. Had I known about this, I might have changed.” You look down at your uniform. It had been a quiet day, with no major emergencies, just one car accident to attend too and a small fire in a disused office block that meant you could stay at the station to catch up on paperwork.

You decided to be a fireman at the age of 6, when our house burnt down and our grandmother was killed. You were miraculously saved, but the dark memories of that night tattooed themselves on your heart.  You’ve been working to erase them ever since.

You have risen rapidly up the ranks thanks to your unique combination of fearlessness, empathy and kindness which inspires loyalty in everyone you work with. If you hadn’t been a fireman, I imagine you would have made an exceptional teacher with students hanging off your every word. You’d be the teacher they’d all remember long after they left school thanks to your quiet leadership, cheeky sense of humour and ability to find the nugget of greatness in each of them.

You are a quiet hero, but it’s this gentleness and lack of awareness of your inner strength, combined with your natural ability to see the good in everyone, that makes you so loved by all who meet you.

I can tell that you are happy. And for that, I am profoundly happy.

Happy 32nd birthday Charlie. To the man you might have been.

PS – apologies to my family who may find this post upsetting and who may have their own image of how Charlie might have been.

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