My Uncle Gordon died in January 2020. My dad’s brother.

My dad and him used to hang out, but they fell out several years ago.

He lived about 400 yards away from my mum and dad.

I had last seen him exactly a year before that when my mum had fallen at home, the event that turned our lives upside down. Before that, I hadn’t seen him for maybe 10 years. Fleetingly, in a cafe in the local park I used to go to with my dad on Sunday mornings to play football.

He walked through the door of my folks’ living room that we used to hang out in all those years ago. That presence, still there in his 91 year old body. I could feel him before I saw him.

While my mum was being cared for by the medics and my dad had been conquered by fear, his reassuring presence was a comfort.

Disagreements didn’t matter any more.

Everything was going to be OK, wasn’t it? I always thought everything would be OK when he was around.

And that’s what mattered right there, right then.

Reassuring, unflappable and principled.

I felt this when I faced his coffin.

That same reassuring presence was right there in that warm, adoring smile looking at us from the photo placed on top of the coffin. It was there in his family.  Being amongst them was a towering and incomparable experience.

Over the years, I have let people – friends, family, neighbours – fade out of my life. Perhaps even unconsciously calculating in my complicity.

I started to investigate why I do this. Relationships, friendships. They are all so important. I know this. But I haven’t found my own answers yet.

2020 has been harrowing for my parents. I’ve thought about Uncle Gordon a lot this year. His reassuring presence is still there. It still matters.

Everything will be OK.

I’ll find my answers.