When brother in law Ritchie asked if we'd mind hosting his sister Breda and husband Barry for a couple of days on their way through Dubai to Ireland and the UK, we readily agreed. Although we didn't know them, any friend of Ritchie's is etc. etc.
The reason they were travelling is so that Barry could say goodbye to everyone, because he was suffering, and had suffered for the past ten years, from cancer.
Now, I'm not very good with that kind of stuff and I can't say that I was looking forward to their visit. As it got closer, I convinced myself that we were in for a couple of days of awful sadness.
And then we picked the two of them up at the airport. Barry started his trip by telling me he'd just carried 40 days' supply of morphine through UAE Customs and nobody had batted an eyelid!!! Given the state of DJ shoe soles around here, I thought that was bloody funny.
I didn't stop laughing, or smiling, for the next 72 hours. Not only were our visitors delightful company, Barry was nothing short of inspirational. Although he'd get the odd twinge of pain in his back and needed to take enzymes to aid his digestion, he was more on top of a disease so chronic that an x-ray of his skeleton showed the cancer was so widespread it was like 'someone had thrown a handful of sticky rice grains at it' than I could ever have imagined. He'd been fighting it for ten years and was still beating it back.
A silver-haired charmer, Barry's face was lined but I could never work out whether they were laughter or pain lines. And it didn't help that he was either laughing or smiling most of the time. You could see the Lothario who swept Breda off her feet all those years ago, and who was still sweeping her off her feet. Full of inquisitiveness, particularly about the many aspects of life in the Emirates, which tickled him enormously, Barry took in Hatta and Mahatta alike with a twinkling, blue-eyed curiosity. His sheer bravery, self-effacing manner and his charm lit up our lives for 72 hours. We were talking about flying to Australia this Easter to go see the two of them.
Yeah, you're right, you do know where this is going.
He died half an hour ago, eight months after saying goodbye.