How can we ever know that when we say goodbye to someone, it will be for the last time.
It was just a few short weeks ago when we went out cycling, stayed on for lunch , we talked and we laughed, we hugged and we said goodbye. I’ll see you later. Devastatingly, unfathomably, there won’t ever be a later.
Less than a month after racing at Mountain Mayhem, my wonderful team mate, former partner and long-time friend is dead. It’s still not something I can take in. My previous blog entry is full of our 24 hour event escapades and happy photos, grinning after our surprise 4th in the mixed pairs class. How quickly life can change.
There is of course an immense amount of grief and pain right now which only time will begin to ease; however this is not a post about sadness, but rather a tribute and a celebration, of a life well lived and well ridden.
Throughout his 27 years Andy packed into his life more than many people manage in twice that time. From taking up paragliding to help his fear of heights, to kite boarding, to skiing, to motor-biking to, to kayaking to spearfishing to mountain biking to…. His was a life filled with activity, with challenging and conquering fears and with the pleasure of just doing.
More fundamentally, I know that all these activities were as much a part of his sense of self as breathing in and out. For a person who sometimes struggled to find the right words with people, the fluency in which he communicated his passion, his skill, his peace was in flying through the air or riding the waves or down impossibly steep trails.
Of all of these pass-times however, his overriding love was cycling. He worked as a bike mechanic, how could it be anything else? When he wasn’t fixing bikes he was riding them, with a confidence and a skill that I can only envy. He was also a very talented rider, fast, strong and getting more so and, though it dented my pride to admit it to him on that last day, I’m so glad that I did.
He was of course the person who also introduced me to mountain biking just a few short years ago. Who encouraged those first tentative wobbly rides and shared in the mud and the mayhem that followed. From our adventures in the Welsh trail centres, where we ended up in court after a hair-raising encounter, to riding up, over and down mountains in Spain and France and camping on cold beaches in winter, bike packing around the coast. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have spent the last 2 years covered in bruises and cuts and I would have avoided some broken bones, but equally I would have missed out on some of the best experiences of my life.
A good day for Andy was day filled with ‘doing’, often as many things as possible. To make the most of every second available, squeezing from the day every drop of potential. It certainly wasn’t unusual for a morning spent cycling to run into an afternoon of flying or paddling before an evening walk. One lot of kit discarded in a heap, another pulled on instead.
It’s inevitable then, and in a way fitting, that it was during one of these myriad activities, in one moment out of so many, that the universe decided to reclaim him. I wish wholeheartedly he could have had longer, however my peace at this time is knowing that he died doing something that he loved. Something that, if you’d taken it away from him, would have made him a much unhappier person, less fulfilled, less content, less him.
There’s always a balance when taking risks and for all of us that balance is different, influenced by many factors. But, without putting ourselves out there, without trying new things, taking risks, experiencing the odd fall, the occasional pain, we also limit the amount of pleasure we get from life. The trade-off is the joy of new experiences, of activity, of being out in the elements, of challenging ourselves, of making new friends.
Even now I can appreciate that a way of life in which you not only derive immense satisfaction and enjoyment from all that you can cram into it; but in which you also find peace and a sense of who you are, has to be a good thing.
So, here’s to a life well lived my friend, to a life well-pedalled, paddled, swum, steered, ridden, snow-plowed and flown. Here’s to the best and most beautiful of souls and to a friend that I will miss most dearly, but one who will remain with me in every berm, jump, hill, rock garden and muddy puddle through which I ride.
See you out on those trails.