Sunday, 4 October 2015

A tribute to Tom

Tom is dying. 

I met Tom in South Africa and we rode together for a few weeks up to Malawi. If you have read my book you’ll know that I’m not always complimentary about the man but deep down I knew he was a kind hearted person and I only wish I’d got to know him better.

We kept in touch sporadically and earlier this year I found out that he was dying. He’s very open about it and now probably only has weeks to live.

I wrote to him recently and he replied saying he’d just read my book (the last book he’s going to read!) and he liked it. That was certainly a relief. 

I think in ‘Gone Riding’ I wrote about his somewhat cavalier attitude to motorcycle riding and how he kept on talking about her was going to die. In his last email to me he wrote the following which really resonated with me and I’d like to leave it here as a sort of tribute to a lovely man.

“I have a different sense of my ritual “today is a good day to die” mantra which I started saying out loud every morning shortly after setting out on my first motorcycle adventure down the west coast of USA a few months after getting my first bike and license eleven years ago when I was 62.
As a boy, I loved being the Indian when playing Cowboys and Indians. I eventually learned a bit about the Iroquois and that particular saying. It wasn’t the cry of a warrior off to battle looking for blood and making light of the threat to his own life as I had thought. Rather, it was what one said whether going into battle or off on any unusually risky adventure. It was an acknowledgement to yourself and the great spirits that today you were starting out aware of being fully alive and traveling on the edge of the precipice. Those days were worth living. Ordinary days (the one’s presumably not good for dying) were spent shuffling along through the routines with relatively low risk to life and limb – the boring day to day of existing. Who would want to die when the blood was meandering rather than pumping hard? Where a Cowboy (and a motorcyclist too) would rather die with his boots on, an Indian would rather die on “a good day”.   

No regrets – well,……. maybe a few. 

Glad I got to ride with you even though we didn’t really get to know each other around the evening campfires. I would have enjoyed that for sure. 

And now it’s over. They tell me I should be dead in a few weeks. As the saying goes, all good things come to an end. And for me, it’s been grand! 

Take care and keep doing it while you still can.”

Tom Richardson