On Sunday November 19th I ran the Brighton 10k with Rebecca Macdonald — her partner, Tristan Hoedemaker stayed home, still fighting off what we suspected was a nasty strain of flu.
The following week Tristan was rushed to the Conquest Hospital, Hastings in the back of an ambulance.
On Monday December 11th I received a text message from Rebecca Hoedemaker, a 23-year-old widow, and one of my dearest friends.
It took just three weeks for cancer to destroy their lives.
But this message isn’t a plea for sympathy to the families of Tristan and Becca. It’s my way of paying homage to a great, generous and fiercely loyal man, unfairly taken at his prime.
Tristan was a giver. Always first to offer help, even if that involved 3am trips out to rescue our sorry (drunk) arses from Brighton. I’d only known him five or so years, but it’s no secret he was putting others before himself his entire life — be that friends, family or animals.
He, along with Becca, also let me gatecrash their romantic holiday in Rome (for a couple of days) when I was struggling around Europe on my tod.
So dedicated was he, to his care for animals, that he quit his well-paid job — putting his livelihood and health on the line — and landed a position as a trainee vet nurse.
And need I say anything about his devotion to Becca. Our precious friend we were always so protective over only fell head over heels for him didn’t she — and after a while, we all did too. He would’ve served the world on a plate for her if she asked.
In recent months Becca and Tristan finally got the break they deserved. A flat to themselves. A space they could relax and be together. And in those months I’ve never seen them happier.
I’d go over once a week in a futile attempt to train with Becca and Tristan would (without fail) rope me into a gigantic vegan feast — every time! Even a week before his admittance to the Conquest Hospital, Tristan was consuming a portion I’d call generous for two.
Everything was perfect. (Skeptical? Tristan skipped running training to help out at puppy training. If that’s not a perfect life I don’t know what is.)
And I think everyone got to see that perfection on Friday 8th December during the union of the love-struck pair.
The wedding was announced with two days to prepare and by God did they pull it off. If anyone present witnesses a scene quite so powerful in the rest of their lives I’ll eat vegan food for the rest of mine…
From the moment Frodo (Becca’s dog) greeted a wheelchair-bound Tristan at the altar, to the beautiful bride walking down the aisle like a princess to Ed Sheran’s “Perfect” (that was always to be her wedding song), and to the tearful and rousing speech from the father of the bride.
The last time I saw Tristan was at his reception. I was one of the lucky few to congratulate the newlywed.
He looked so ill. But he also looked so full of pride — back straight, hair on point, and a twinkle in his eye I hadn’t seen in weeks.
That was when I got to say goodbye.
It wasn’t in words. It was through a handshake. And it wasn’t a weak handshake either. The eye contact could only have lasted five seconds, but may as well have been an hour.
It was like I could feel his emotions.
He wasn’t afraid to die. He didn’t let the immense pain and discomfort take away from his magical day.
And until his final day on earth, he didn’t complain about anything. He’d already come to terms with the eventuality of his passing so all that was left in his eyes when I shook his hand was kindness and gratitude.
Because he already knew we’d continue supporting Becca always. We are rather protective of her — like I said.
I didn’t know it would be the last time. Of course, I hoped along with everyone he’d make a recovery. But now I’m glad I got to see him at his proudest moment.
If you’re still reading now I’ll assume you’re family or friends of either Becca or Tristan Hoedemaker.
If you are and haven’t donated, Becca’s almost completely used up her house deposit on wedding arrangements and treatment.
Any donations you can afford will now go into a fund Becca will use to open a dog sanctuary in memory of Tristan.
Just click the link to donate. Any messages left with donations are sure to make the following days, weeks, months, more bearable.