Paul Vernon

Paul was my friend through the years when you’re finding yourself, being shaped by the people around you and figuring out how to be in the world. Honestly, Paul seemed to arrive in my life more ‘fully formed’ than most; he always seemed to have a good idea who he was, that he wasn’t going to entirely ‘fit’ with the crowd and was comfortable standing out. His wooden clogs, Australian bushcoat and New Model Army T-shirt definitely helped him to stand out.

But the side of Paul that not everyone would have guessed was that he was also unusally calm, warm, open and curious. I sat next to him through A-Levels – given enough of a lull, we would listen to each other’s music by sharing a walkman and headphones. I gained a lot of exposure to The Doors, if not an appreciation. Paul was always open-minded, funny and would surprise people with a deep-running streak of goofiness.

I was lucky enough to enjoy Paul visiting me through my early work years, as he settled with Tracie and enjoyed a domestic world that seemed to suit him down to the ground. He loved his family and he loved life. He drove around in his banana yellow Land Rover, and the sight of him unfolding himself from it always gave me joy – it was incongruous, practical, idiosyncratic, trademark Paul.

We reconnected around his first battle with cancer, and when we finally were able to meet up in person (me now living in the US) I noticed a change in him, almost a blossoming. The quiet, gentle, philosophical side of Paul (which was *always* there) was now the first thing I noticed. He spoke about his illness, pain and new limitations with a complete lack of self-pity or bitterness. Everything was a new journey that he seemed to accept and tackle with a momumental strength of character. He was as curious and engaged in my life as the urgent demands of his.

Where Paul was always a friend that I loved to have in my life, he absolutely became an inspiration. He seemed to find reserves of calm and fortitude that I couldn’t quite comprehend, given the random cruelty inflicted on him and his life. He seemed to rise above that battle and succeed. We stayed in touch over recent years, and I loved chatting, sharing news.

Since Paul told me last year of the new battle in his life, I feared what might come, but Paul’s inner resilience through these last hard months seemed to me boundless, heroic. He never changed and never gave in. Didn’t yield what mattered even one bit. If he couldn’t beat cancer, he wasn’t going to surrender what made him a precious, special person. He showed care for those around him when he struggled to care for himself.

The last message I got from him was a beautifully expressed, typed condolence for the death of my Dad two weeks ago, at a time when it must have cost him to send it. It is the kindest thing, a measure of true strength and generosity.

I will always challenge myself to be like Paul when times are (one day) hard for me as well. I’m so grateful that I’ll always have his memory to help me do it.

My deepest, deepest sympathies to his parents, Tracie and his whole family. Losing Paul must be almost impossible to bear. I hope you find strength from each other and the love that brought you all together in the first place.

Love you Paul, my friend.


Rob Lister

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