This week an incredible man passed away.
Peter Cranham was a great entertainer, actor, ambassador and speaker, changing lives for those with learning disabilities. He was a devoted brother,
He was also a dear friend.
I miss his weekly calls, that always came as I peeled potatoes or wiped a snotty nose, and had determined to call him when the children were in bed.
So very thoughtful, "How's Bob?" he'd ask, "How did your talk to the teachers go today?"
He always remembered. He always enquired. He always made me smile.
He was a real one off. The kind of person you only meet once in your life.
Last winter, as November ran its course, Peter came to stay with our family. We shared unfeasably large portions of fish and chips, walked the dog in nearby woods, and, very specially we decorated our Christmas tree together with him. It was a day early, the last day of November, but I'm so glad we shared that special time. Peter was as excited as the girls, eagerly holding his hand out for the next bauble as I looped it's string over his finger.
I remember a fleeting thought, as it crossed my mind, lifting a glass orb from it's nestled year long hibernation: "Who knows what memories these decorations will hold when we unpack them next year?"
I wrote him a little poem about how we met 2 days before he died:
Nervous, a fish out of water
I entered the venue alone
Eagerly seeking the faces of unknowns I was to meet
A guest speaker
Miles from the comfort of my home, children, family
It was my first ever gig
A talk to a room full of professionals
Was I up to it?
You instinctively sensed my nerves
My self-doubt, my awareness
That I felt different
And unhindered by reserve you came forward
Held my hand
Welcomed and introduced me to all
The new team shared a meal,
A glass of wine
Stories, tales and easy laughter
How we giggled finding you at a glitzy award party
A detour from the restrooms
Living fully in each moment
Next day I watched you talk
Tears flooded my face as I learnt
You'd been a victim of hate crime
Glassed in the face
Your gentle, innocent soul
Just for being different
But it was you who comforted me
Soothed my disbelieving anger
With a wise and knowing smile
You touched my life that day
Filled me with determination
To join you to create lasting change
To follow your lead
To make a difference
To remove the fear society has
Just for being different
Please watch Peter's story here. An award-winning film he made to teach medical professionals and help other's with a learning disability.
Hearing from afar how amazingly Peter was cared for in those last days has strengthened my respect for learning disability nurses yet further. Please read about what they do here in Make Positive Choice for Learning Disability Nurses.