Good Mates

I think it’s fair to say that it’s been a tough year. Raphael’s health issues are well documented on this page, but I also lost my cousin and best mate to cancer about three months ago. In fact, the terms “cousin” or “best mate” don’t quite capture my relationship with Andy, he was more like a brother to me. I can’t remember ever meeting Andy because he was always right there next to me, ever since we first met in the hospital as newborns. We lived next door to each other, went to school together, travelled the world together and pretty much just lived in each other’s pockets our entire lives. I can’t really sum up our friendship properly, but suffice to say that we were as close as mates can be.

Despite being aware of Andy’s prognosis for quite some time, nothing could prepare me for the blow I felt when I lost him.

The grief I have experienced, and continue to experience, coupled with Raphael’s struggles (which saw him admitted to ICU the day after Andy passed) as well as the loss of our unborn twins the day before Andy passed has shaken me to the core and left me with an overwhelming feeling of defeat. I’ve had enough thanks.

Despite being aware of Andy’s prognosis for quite some time, nothing could prepare me for the blow I felt when I lost him. The grief I have experienced, and continue to experience, coupled with Raphael’s struggles (which saw him admitted to ICU the day after Andy passed) as well as the loss of our unborn twins the day before Andy passed has shaken me to the core and left me with an overwhelming feeling of defeat. I’ve had enough thanks.

What makes this all even harder to cope with is that the friend who I would lean on more than any other is the one who I have lost. At a time where I have never been more in need of a good mate to pick me up, console me and encourage me onwards, the one who was always standing right next to me is no longer there when I turn to look to him for help.

Grief is something that you must face on your own, and no one can share the burden for you. However, the support I’ve been offered by some very good mates of mine has undoubtedly given me extra strength to get through the past three months, and that’s what I really wanted to touch on in this post. How important it is to have good mates, and how important it is to be a good mate.

Good mates are there at the best and the worst moments of your life. We all have a bank of golden memories involving the good times we have shared with our friends. These are the moments we always look forward to and there is nothing easier than having fun with your mates. What is not so easy is to be there for your mates when the going gets tough. Awkwardly putting your hand on your mate’s shoulder and talking through how they’re feeling when things are pretty rubbish is definitely not as fun as a summer afternoon drinking beers and watching the footy, but despite this, a good mate will recognise the signs that someone is doing it tough, and will insist upon offering whatever assistance is at their disposal. This can be uncomfortable and hard, especially I think for men, as (speaking generally from my own observations) we do not communicate about our emotions as freely or as often as women do. Nevertheless a mate perseveres and continues to provide emotional support when they really don’t feel like doing so. Throughout this past year (and past three months in particular) I’ve been very lucky to be on the receiving end of this form of mateship, and to the guys that have been there for me, thank you very, very much.

So how is that my mates have helped me through such a difficult time in my life?

They have helped me to continue seeing the positives in life at a time when it’s sorely tempting to hole myself up and wallow in my misery. Crucial to staying on an even keel when things get a bit tough is the ability to keep laughing and enjoying life when the opportunities present themselves. We can’t function properly if we are always consumed with sadness and despite whatever hard times you might fall on, there are always good times to be had in the midst of it all. Equally, my mates have also made me feel comfortable enough to express frustration, anger or sadness when relevant. Life can’t be complete if you only pursue good times and refuse to face the difficulties that have presented themselves and to try and do so is to simply run away from reality. Good mates help you to find a good balance by getting you out of the house to have some fun when you feel overwhelmed by sadness, by calling to show support when they know you’ve had a particularly rough week and especially by helping you to see the lighter side of life when you’re in a real plonker.

Mateship is more than just the companionship and laughs that is often associated with friendship. The support, understanding and empathy involved in proper mateship is almost tangible when you really experience it, and I don’t think I’ve ever really grasped what it is until now that I have had a real need for it. I think that more than anything else, true mateship is constancy, it’s being there when it’s easy and fun to be there and also when it’s downright awkward and uncomfortable to be there. It’s continuing to send those messages when replies aren’t forthcoming and letting your mate know that you’re right there next to them, ready to drop everything and step up to the plate whenever necessary. So thank you to all of you who have been there for me, you’ve helped me more than you could know.