01/01/2022 - On this date I lost one of the most wonderful men to have ever walked into my life and one of my most valued friends, Len (aka. the Lodger).
Len entered my life at full throttle during his placement year from Harper Adams. I interviewed him professionally and shortly after, found him looking for a roof over his head. Initially it was going to be a short term arrangement whilst he looked elsewhere, a maximum of eight weeks we agreed ... ten months later I was begging him not to leave. He taught me to take a step back from the seriousness of life, as he fully embraced life and the work/social life balance (weighted heavily the one way), reminded me the importance of having a good time, of being kind and of being patient (patience was required, i can tell you, living with a 20/21 year old man who was attempting to 'adult' often required mountains of patience).
I have so many memories of Len, all of which bring a smile and often make me laugh out loud. One particular time I came home from work one evening, opened to the front door to look up and find the kitchen door being shut firmly in haste. Naturally, this arose my suspicions. I got changed out of my works clothes and wandered down to the kitchen which, from the outside sounded like a hive of activity. It did not sound like the usual unwrapping of a McDonalds or opening of the oven door and sliding in of a pizza, it sounded like cooking was full steam ahead. Intriguing. I opened the door to what can only be described as absolute bedlam. I cannot emphasise enough that there was flour everywhere, I mean everywhere. Pots and pans littered the kitchen, somehow all were in or had been used. He was making beef stroganoff. A short while after, we were sat at the kitchen table, amongst this chaos, eating the very edible beef stroganoff when he announced with conviction that he was going to bake a cake for the office the following day. I think the look on my face said it all. We bought a nice cake instead, save the kitchen I thought.
Len was the most selfless, generous and kind-hearted person I knew. He warmed any room he walked into. Any problem, great or small he would be there to either laugh along with (or at) you at ridiculously timed life ‘disasters’ or to listen with intent and try to help put things into perspective.
To an extent, I think grieving is a personal thing and I’m not always a fan to be publicising intimate emotional details online. However, I feel that in this particular instance, it needs to be shouted about. Shutting off and crying behind closed doors whilst putting on a brave face for work and ‘real life’ doesn’t do this devastating situation justice and does nothing to help the often archaic views on Mental Health within rural (and other) industries. Making light of this situation, brushing it under the carpet and ‘soldiering on’ will only perpetuate the issue and that it is something that cannot and should not be spoken about. It SHOULD be spoken about and it should be spoken about openly.
It is normal to be sad, it is normal to go through times of feeling melancholy, it is normal to sometimes feel like you cannot face a day in the office, to feel like the world is chucking one bad thing after another at you and to want to curl up and feel like you cannot face the world. Acknowledge this, try to process it and speak about it. If you’re no ok and someone asks “if you’re ok”, say “no, actually I’m not but that’s ok”. Why lie?!
I am beyond sad, it is numbing. One of my closest friends took his own life and it is devastating for him and for the life he had yet to live, for his family, for all his friends and for anyone who did not and were yet to have Len in their lives.
Len, you were an absolute delight and I feel so privileged to have had you as a friend and regret that it could not have been for longer.