Daily Mail - Daily Mail Weekend Magazine

My best friend, and the son he never met

How an idyllic weekend with his godson stirred up some poignant feelings for Monty


My boat is called Jason, which many would say is a curious name for a vessel. It goes against tradition for starters, as boats generally have female names; and, long and lean, it doesn’t really look like a Jason – more of a Quicksilve­r or a Lightning. And yet every time I climb aboard, I see the name and smile.

Jason was my best friend from our days in the Marines, the funniest man you’d ever meet. We idly use the expression ‘larger than life’, but in so many ways he transcende­d the normal rules of living, his indefatiga­ble spirit, good humour, and joie de vivre leaving a mark on everyone who met him. He was passionate about the sea in general, about south Devon in particular, and as we sailed through many a distant sunlit summer, we’d idly chat about running a small eco-tourism business together one day.

So when Jason was killed in Iraq a decade ago, the reaction of those who knew him was one of disbelief. For many it seemed impossible that such an elemental life force, someone who celebrated and revered living, could have been snuffed out in a single moment of heat and dust. But that is war, and Jason – among many other good men and women of many nationalit­ies – was gone, and those who loved him had to accept that.

For some it was easier than others. Jason’s girlfriend was carrying their baby at the time, and has had to raise him alone. She has done so through a monumental effort of will and energy, a single mum battling grief at her own personal loss and yet shoulderin­g the immense responsibi­lity of raising Jason’s boy. She squared her shoulders, lifted her chin and took it all in her stride. The result is a great kid, one I know would make his dad very proud.

Ten years have passed and, life being the frantic carousel that it is, even as his godfather I have seen them only sporadical­ly. Yet a few weekends ago I had the great pleasure of hosting them here at the smallholdi­ng. It was a rare weekend indeed, when the sun beat down, time drifted by on a lazy breeze, insects hummed in the heat, and my best mate’s lad ran barefoot through our garden.

Watching him and Reuben together was a treat. Reuben has had his own share of hardship – at one time he was a rescue dog with an uncertain future. They seemed genuinely drawn to each other, and I’ve seldom seen Reuben relax so completely and so quickly with a new guest in the house.

For his part, Jason’s son did what all small boys should do at some point in their lives – head off for adventures of his own creation, accompanie­d only by a huge dog and a vivid imaginatio­n, to eventually return hot and bothered, with the two of them clamouring for a cool drink and a patch of shade.

As I watched the pair of them play together, it dawned on me what the boy had lost, a thought made all the more poignant for knowing what a tremendous dad his father would have been. The lad’s mother is a pillar of strength, the rock around which his life has swirled. Yet there are certain things a father can bring to a child’s life that perhaps a mother cannot, and I can’t help imagining Jason out on his boat with his son, one of many moments the two of them would have shared to build the memories that enrich a life.

The story of our troops’ involvemen­t in the Middle East will eventually drop out of the news. Yet for Jason’s son, and his mother, it’s a battle they face constantly and in some small part will do so for the rest of their days. While we must respect and mourn those lost, it is equally important that we remember and support those they left behind.

 ??  ?? Monty’s godson with Reuben
Monty’s godson with Reuben
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