I met Leslie nearly eight years ago, just after my father died. Making new friends was not on my agenda just then. Little did I know.
He and his wife Pat were in Canada for their annual visit from their home in Edinburgh. He was 93. That first meeting and the rest of the year were a bit of a blur for me. But when my friend Fiona announced that they were coming back the following year, we made plans to host a dinner. And attend a party. And go out for dinner. Those two knew how to pack a lot in to a short time.
We got to know each other and something sparked.
It wasn’t just his intelligence, though that was phenominal. Fluent in multiple languages, he had read, quite literally, all the classics. He’d also memorized The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, which he would recite over a glass of sherry, with a wicked twinkle in his eye.
He was open-minded and open-hearted. Accepting of bad language and ungainly questions. He lost his father in World War 1. In World War 2, he lead an ambulance team in the east end of London. After the war, he decided that if this peace were going to last, “we need to make friends with these people” and took himself hitch-hiking through Germany.
When he and his second wife, Pat were on their honeymoon, they travelled through Europe, stopping to visit some of the friends he had made all those years ago. As they were getting out of the car at one house, he said, “I should probably tell you, Hans was an SS Officer during the war…” Pat wanted to get back in the car, but good manners forced her up the drive and in the door to meet a man that in other circumstances she would have dismissed as inhuman, not worthy of compassion or understanding. He knew how to challenge people, did Leslie.
He founded the Green Party of Scotland and during last year’s election, went door to door campaigning for the local candidate. He never lost his engagement with life, his concern for the fate of the world or his ability to make friends.
I never expected to fall in love, happily married and middle-aged. But I did. Knowing Leslie enriched my life, opened my mind and my heart , made me realize that there will always be surprises.
Leslie died Sunday, at the age of 100. My world feels smaller and duller because he’s gone. This weekend we’ll be toasting him and his wife. And a toast for you, too.
May love find you when you least expect it.
wow, Barb. I’m so sorry for your loss but so inspired by your story of friendship, and ‘love unexpected’. Thanks again for sharing part of your life with me (us, the world).
And let’s not forget the friendships unexpected that develop in difficult working conditions…
Cheers to Leslie! I hope, amidst your sorrow, you can celebrate him. It sounds as though your life has been so much richer having known him and shared with him, many beautiful moments. Living to 100 is honourable. Love unexpected is honourable. And it’s a beautiful thing…
PS: I have a Leslie, too…his name is David and he’s an Englishman. He’s 73 and lives in Dundas, Ontario. I think I’m overdue for a visit…
Time to make the trip Tracy! Thank you!
Thank you for sharing a very precious part of your life. Those are the people who live on long after they are gone through the people that they have touched. Leslie’s life is a great witness of what we all should be concerned with…. others instead of ourselves, and leaving everything a bit better than what we found it. Hugs.
Thank you for sharing your story.
I think, your dear friend(ship) just brought some perspective into my kitchen. A toast to the two of you.
And to you, Kaija. I’m so glad Leslie can continue to inspire.
What a talent you have for making friends Barb!
I’ll keep an eye out for Leslie’s obit in the Scotsman this week.
Thanks so much, Macy. It’s good to see you here! I’ve been getting just a touch worried about you (but now I see the broadband is working)…
Thanks for sharing a beautiful story about a man who lived life well. Feel sad for you for your loss but happy that you fell in love!
Thanks Karen. I’m happy I fell in love, too.
Thank you dearest Barb. What a beautiful tribute from you to Leslie. It just seems so ‘wrong’ that he and Pat won’t be here together one more time . How blessed we were to have 13 consecutive Summers with them both.I am so glad that we can share memories.
So am I Fiona!
Wow. It’s a bit early in the day to be drinking anything stronger, but I have just raised my mug of coffee to you and your friend Leslie. How wonderful that through this post, your dear friend continues to inspire and challenge – even in spirit. I never knew him of course, but I think I might be a little in love with him too. 🙂 Thank you for sharing. xx
Just the effect I was hoping to have! Thanks so much Claire!
Thanks for sharing your story with us!
As Rudyard Kipling said “if you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run, yours is the earth and everything that’s in it and which is more you will be a MAN my son”
I think Leslie was a “MAN” and his spirit will forever be inspirational to those whose life he touched either directly or through your blog
That’s so kind. Thank you Prashant.
Beautiful. Cheers to you both!
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