David Eastwood

It's two years ago today that my friend and next door neighbour David Eastwood passed away. The day was a Saturday, and he gave up his fight at 14:50... the same time we'd lined up on the squash court every Saturday for well over ten years for a couple of hours of grunting and groaning followed by a beer.

In the end he had to give up. At times it seemed he was going to win, so magnificent was the battle he put up against his bowel cancer. But at the end he was so exhausted one could imagine it was a blessed relief.
He was a year younger than me at 54.

Julia, his wife, gave me the honour of speaking at his funeral. I've copied out what I said below to keep a record... as you can see from his photo, over time things deteriorate, or get lost.

This is to remember my good friend...

Eulogy to David Eastwood
'I first met David in the early 1990s because of my son's friendship with David's son, Kevin.

It wasn't long before our paths crossed again... I was sitting an insurance exam and David was invigilating. David was a staunch supporter of his local Insurance Institute and became its President no less. We found we both worked in the insurance industry.

We found other common threads when David moved and we became next door neighbours. We both started our careers with the same Company, General Accident... the same Company David worked for at that time as an Inspector. We'd both been keen football players until increasing years made flying up the wing with the ball an increasingly unlikely proposition. We'd both moved into racquet sports as a replacement for football.

So by the mid 1990s we'd began a weekly Saturday afternoon routine of an hour of two's squash followed by setting the world to rights over a beer. We did play tennis once, but David was a far more accomplished tennis player than I'll ever be. After seeing his serves whizz past me, or if I was lucky enough to get my racquet to one to see the follow up also whizz past, I wasn't keen to repeat the humiliation.

And over time David became not just a friend, but a best friend.

We got to know each other's families a little better as well. At times it seemed half of David's family were round our house... in fact Julia, thinking about it, they were... what with Kevin and Paul holed up in my son's bedroom playing computer games, and Carrie disco dancing with Becky in the garage.
Our squash was always fiercely competitive. David's game of measured and skilful stroke play was a perfect foil for mine of rushing around the court retrieving everything in sight. He had a forehand drive I could only dream of. Drop shots and service returns that would leave me floundering. So even when I'd worn him down and won, I still came away feeling I could do better.

To try and gain the upper hand I got into a routine Saturday lunchtime of thinking about what to eat; nothing too heavy; what had worked last week? I had a fish phase for a short spell... a very short spell when I realised galloping up and down the court with a stomach full of kippers wasn't my brightest idea!

I'd read my squash books, watch my squash video. I'd be ready for David by 2:30. By 4:00 I was invariably back to square one.

As the years rolled by our squash abilities mellowed. I managed to keep going apart from the odd bad back. David had more to overcome. He returned from major knee surgery to continue playing. On one occasion he hit the corner of the court and dislocated his shoulder... only to click it back into place and carry on playing. We continued playing after he was diagnosed with his illness. I wondered how long it would be before he'd have to give up, and thought the first signs were there last summer when I got the ultimate score against him of 3-0, 3-0, 3-0, something either of us only rarely achieved. The following week, after undergoing his first treatment of chemotherapy no less, he returned the favour by beating me 3-0, 3-0, 3-0.

Throughout all the games we played we never exchanged a cross word once. Yes, there was the odd glance exchanged for a doubtful shot. Occasionally a racquet would get slung into the corner of the court if a game was lost that shouldn't have been. David was an honourable man, easy to trust, wouldn't let you down.

I can understand with those attributes allied to his extensive knowledge of his trade, why he managed to win over so many new church accounts for his last employers, Ecclesiastical. David knew how lucky he was to have a job that took him to churches in village and town across East Anglia. He took great pride in his work. He'd tell me of some of the gems he'd visited, some of the surprises he'd found. He'd tell me of sitting along the north Norfolk coast eating his lunch in the summer sunshine. I'd make a point of asking him, in mid winter when I knew the weather had been particularly foul the previous week, where he'd been to... to balance things out a bit, you understand.

We continued to play right through to our last game on the 10th February this year. Even then David hadn't finished competing, so strong was his will power, and we played snooker on the 7th July. David was much weaker by then, but still managed a one all draw. He showed spirit and such a strong courage throughout his illness.

In our chats I got to understand David's love of his family. His eyes would shine when he spoke of his more than twenty grandchildren. Of his deep love for Julia, his wife. And I've seen that love returned many fold as David's family wrapped themselves around him like a comfort blanket to take care of him. In his time of need David wanted for nothing.

I'd like to finish by telling you of something David did a couple of years ago. Many of you know of this already, but it doesn't diminish in the retelling. It's a simple example of the love I've mentioned.
One week over a beer after squash David told me of the extraordinary arrangements he'd made for the following week. Julia's car was due for a service, and David was to go with her to the local Ford dealer. Whilst there, Julia's eye would be caught by a shiny new, brilliant blue, Ford Ka convertible sitting in the showroom. Oh, the chinese torture of being allowed to sit in the car, fiddle with the dials, imagine it was hers... and it was! David had bought the car for Julia and she found herself driving it home for keeps. What a wonderful thing to do!

Another reminder of a special man. A special man indeed.

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