Zach Beauvais

A bad year for hearts…

Written by Zach Beauvais

Sep 25, 2009

I’ve always found it difficult to blog about truly emotive things. I might get worked up over a technological failing or annoyed about a political situation, but these things are abstractions: I can hold them out and have a look at them. Something held close to my chest, though? Well, it’s too close for comfort—too close to see very well myself—and I feel a bit like I’ve let people down by not writing about them.

I also use this blog for a combination of personal publishing and work-scribbling. It’s been a place where I publish thoughts which aren’t quite right for a work post or for a mainstream article, but help me on my way toward either. This leaves me slightly divided as to what I’d include here. But, this is my place, and I feel like it should contain some of my recent thoughts. Besides, a wise friend once told me that life’s not really easily divided into groups, so why split up your own thoughts?

Back in February, I received a short message from my brother: “Call me, Grandpa’s not well.” What followed were dozens of difficult phone conversations with family over in Colorado as I patched together exactly what was going on. From what I worked out Grandpa had been helping a neighbour split wood for their fire when he collapsed and was taken to hospital. For a couple days, I was awake at odd hours working out what time I could phone without waking family in the middle of the night to find out more. The outlook wasn’t good, and a sort of pathetic play-by-play followed as the doctors’ diagnoses, plans, and prospects were relayed through three or four people before reaching me. Late one evening, I heard he hadn’t made it. He seemed to have had a good morning, for a Grandpa. He’d already had a breakfast party with his closest friends, driven out to his beloved house in the hills to wade through his collection of tools and his last conscious act on earth was helping his elderly neighbour.

As the patriarch of our huge family, the loss was stunning. Life has a Grandpa in it, and he lives in an amazing cabin in the hills. He cooks barbecues, and he threatens to cut your hair if you don’t behave. His bear-hugs are both welcome and terrifying, but he protects you from the real bears and I still can’t quite imagine a life without a Grandpa.

Last week, I received a short message: “Call me, it’s important.”

What followed was another surreal conversation, from which I learned that a good friend of mine would no longer be sharing banter about code and beer. A year ago, I’d met Leu when I sent out a call to any geeks and techies in Shropshire. Together we began the Shropshire Geek Society, which has been a monthly gathering at pubs to celebrate all things geeky. Many times, when stuck with a problem, Leu would have a solution or work-round for me before I’d even framed the question. He was a brilliant coder, and always good for an anecdote at geeky get-togethers. But more than that, Leu seemed to really get people. His concern was staggering, and I have rarely met a kinder person. After dropping him at his house after a particularly late geek night, he said: “Make sure you let me know when you get home [an hour away], I’ll be awake.”

It’s been a week since the phone call, and at least three times I’ve gone to share a story with Leu and stopped at the send button.

The thing Leu and my Grandpa had in common was a special heart.

Grandpa was always there, looking after me and my many cousins: compassionate and stern. Solid.

Leu was a fast and fierce friend, who—though I’d only known him for a year or so—felt like someone I’d grown up with.

A heart is something we don’t consider often, unless we’re reminded. From the top of the Shropshire hills, my own heart often reminds me it’s there. This year, it’s percussive reminder has taken on a special meaning.

British Heart Foundation

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