Dear James

I didn’t know what to write this year. It’s been 3 years since you died and I could easily write all the words I wrote last year or the year before again. I’ve felt under pressure to find new, right words to say. But in truth there are no right words for such anniversaries. There is no sentence to sum up the person shaped hole left behind when someone dies. So this year I thought I’d write you a letter instead.

I don’t know how I will feel today. I always find tomorrow hardest, the day when we found out you weren’t coming back. Norway felt like a million miles from home that day. I still find it hard to think about the moment we were told the news. And the days that followed. Our grief became so tangled up with each others, that it took me months to validate and separate my own. There was the grief of loosing you but also the grief of watching people I love loose you. I couldn’t make it better and I knew how much you would have wanted to make it better too.

I struggled with why God would call you home, someone so young and full of life. You could have been anything you wanted to be. Your future seemed full of much more promise than my own. It seemed to make so little sense. But I have long stopped wondering why. I don’t expect to find answers, at least not in this life.

I’m getting older by the year whilst you’re frozen in time. Frozen as that 21 year old full of enthusiasm. I see you at bible study doing press-ups with a small child on your back, whilst we laughed. I hear the care in your voice when you talked about those you loved. I remember you giving up your time to help me with my coursework, when relativity made my brain hurt. I can still hear you laughing from across a lecture theatre.

We didn’t get a chance to see if we would have drifted apart. I don’t know if you would have been another casualty of my communication failures. You don’t get the chance to fade out of my life. You were ripped from us so suddenly that we will be forever holding onto the threads you left behind.

There’s a scar on my heart left by your death and I don’t think this is a scar that’s supposed to heal. It reminds me of who you were and what you stood for. It encourages me to embrace life and take chances. It shows me that your life made an impact on mine, that you inspired and touched many lives in your short life. Somehow loss adds another depth to your experience of life. It opens up your eyes to the richness and frailty of life. You see the world through a different perspective.

I remember at the time not being able to imagine what it would be like to have distance from that day. I couldn’t picture an anniversary. But life goes on, no matter how much you want the world to stop turning, to mark your loss. The human spirit is remarkably resilient and time moved on. It has changed me but not broken me as I feared. Beauty has grown up from the ashes, fed by the fertile soil of loss.

I remember the last conversation we had together, how frustratingly mundane it was. There are so many words I wish I said to you before you left. But I won’t write them all here, I am confident that you know them already.

I will just say simply: I’m sorry. I’m sorry to have taken you for granted, for all the times I was self-absorbed and blind to you. I’m sorry for not telling you how glad I was to have you as a friend, for not baking you that thankyou cake. But more than anything I’m sorry you didn’t get to live out your dreams, I would have wished for you a long and happy life, to have seen all you would have become.


I thought I would have been back to Norway by now. I thought I would sit out looking across the lake and look up into the tree to see if there was another mother bird feeding her babies. I pictured myself standing on top of that mountain and seeing how the wild flowers had grown. I felt like I left a piece of my heart there among the fjords. But now I’m not so sure I will go back. Perhaps some memories are best being left to fade. That beautiful landscape now holds a lot of pain for me.


And I’m waffling. If you were still here I would never write you such a letter. Our friendship would have stayed unspoken, I may have never said the words I meant to say. I have no idea if these words will reach you where you are. I know  I really wrote these words for me not you, an attempt to show that you’re remembered. I hope you understand that I may not write next year. It won’t be because I have forgotten, but because there may be no new words to say.

I know that you are with God now, free from pain and suffering. I know you are in the midst of the greatest adventure ever. And until we meet again, I trust that my God is faithful and true. I will continue to follow him as you did.

My friend, you are loved, you are missed, and you are remembered. Today and each day.




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