Sam Best-Shaw, RIP

I’ve just returned home from the memorial service for Sam, my friend from university who died last month from a brain tumour.

I’ve written elsewhere about how much it has affected me to lose a friend – albeit a recently distant one – of a similar age, and a fellow parent. More than I’d like to admit, certainly.

And so I found myself, along with maybe a hundred of Sam’s friends and family, at his local church on an otherwise random Thursday afternoon. It was good to see so many making the small but not insignificant effort of attending to pay their respects; good too to see other old university friends who I hadn’t met up with in some time, one of whom I hadn’t seen since my stag night 12 years ago. (Although there is something especially sad when you look around the church and realise that half the people there are from the generation before: to my mind it goes against the natural order of things for the old to have to mourn the young.)

But anyway. We sang. We listened to stories and recollections from Sam’s life. And we remembered.

And once the first memory was stirred, so many came flooding back. Countless evenings drinking cheap beer in the Union bar. Sam’s rickety room on staircase 15 with the uneven floor, and the month it got taken over by the Lib Dems as their campaign base for the council elections. College discos (they were called ‘sweaties’, for obvious reasons), balls and other events. Summer afternoons punting zig-zaggedly on the Cherwell drinking Pimms, or at the Parks watching cricket. Our ritual end-of-term night out at a local Chinese restaurant called Dear Friends, where we would order dishes with the aid of a random number generator and then stay up all night playing games. Conversations about music ranging from the banal to the surreal: tracing all the historical references in Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’, for instance, or arguments about why the Stranglers were, as Sam would vehemently argue, the best band in the history of pop. (Hearing ‘Always The Sun’ playing out of the speakers as the last act of the service was the final straw for me, bringing tears to my eyes and triggering a second wave of memories.)

But then, of course, that’s the point of a memorial service: you remember. And in the rekindled personal memories of a hundred or more people this afternoon, Sam lives on.

It’s not much, but then again maybe it is.

Samuel Stevenson Best-Shaw
Husband of Elena
Father of Adam and Rebecca