Monday, July 14, 2003

Michael J. H. - 23rd October 1951 - 8th July 2003

I wasn't sure if I should write about this, but today's events were so moving that I decided I should. On Tuesday, my friend Carole's best friend Michael passed away after a long battle with cancer.

They both came into my life last August, after Carole got in touch to see if I'd ever be organising a girl group night in Manchester. She mentioned she had a friend who loved girl groups, but who was too ill to travel to the parties in London. That was Michael, and he was a driving force behind me getting off my arse and organising Slow Fizz in November. Although I only met Michael a handful of times, I felt lucky to have gotten to know him before his illness prevented him from socialising. I also felt that I knew him through Carole, who told me countless stories as we got to know each other over the months that followed.

The service at St. Ann's Church this morning (a gloriously hot, sunny morning too!) was beautiful but heartbreaking. A pianist was playing Chopin's "Nocturne No. 1 in B flat minor" as we walked in, which started off a morning of tears. I'm not religious, but when the reverend asked us to kneel in prayer I found myself doing it without thinking - there was something soothing about the ritual. Perhaps the most moving moment was when Michael's boyfriend (bravely) read out a little speech, and when he quoted a Dusty song at the end I'm sure there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

We travelled on to the cremation, and the tears started afresh when the Ronettes "Be my baby" came on to let us know to come into the chapel. Although this song means something to a lot of people, for me it hit home because I'd sung it specially for Michael at Slow Fizz when Carole told me it was his favourite song.

After a brief service, suddenly Dusty's "I'm coming home again" came on and the emotional impact made me sob out loud. Maybe it was because I've always felt incredibly emotional about Dusty's death, and the two moments put together just floored me. After that, the Crystal's "Da Doo Ron Ron" came on and the mood changed - slowly, people laughed quietly to themselves as they wiped their eyes. The ridiculously cheerful song seemed to be Michael's way of saying a happy and cheeky goodbye, and it was great.


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