From a Friend

Dear Bill & Nan,

First of all, Bill, I was glad to have had the chance to pass on my condolences in person to you yesterday. As explained, I only discovered the very sad news the previous evening while planning to send Alain a birthday card. Although I felt it highly unlikely such a tragedy would have occurred, there was a slight concern it was a possibility. For that reason I checked his twitter account knowing him to be regularly active there, and I then learned about what happened.

I was absolutely stunned and am still processing all of this, as I’m sure you are.

However I wanted the opportunity to write to both of you further, hopefully to offer some level of comfort by explaining from my experience how your son was viewed by others. Much of this you will or may already know, and all of it, plus more, I discussed at length with him especially in the past couple of years.

I knew Alain for over 30 years. We had similarities and differences, the former providing the initial connection, the latter adding to the interest – it’s probably why we got on so well.

I’ve encountered people from all walks of life, different backgrounds from all over the world, and can honestly say there’s nobody I can compare him with – in that sense he remains unique.

Highly creative with a particular sense of humour we both shared – and agreed it was probably best just to share between us ! – highly intelligent and an intensely deep thinker with an interest in just about everything who also clearly placed a high value on his social circle due to his outgoing nature.

From what I witnessed when he was in the presence of others, he was seen as great company. All of the above plus other characteristics made him extremely engaging, fun to be around, and I remember my own late mother being very keen on him due to his very amiable mannerisms.
Nobody, least of all Alain, deserved the kind of chain of events most likely triggered by the occurrence in Killearn all those years ago. The magnitude of misfortune as one event compounded against another is unprecedented in my experience, I have never known of one individual to be subjected to such challenges, however the net results were understandable.

I don’t want to touch upon this subject too much in a letter as I feel it’s inappropriate, although perhaps some information at this stage might prove helpful.

By our staying in touch through the years I was well aware of everything that had occurred and what he was going through.

When we met up again in 2016 we had a long, thorough and frank discussion, it was clear the main issues which troubled him -1 knew his mind entirely. In my opinion, the law of “cause & effect” had conspired against him over the years leading him to this point, but it was agreed on this basis if we adopted the same principle in a positive way, it could be reversed and develop an upward trajectory.

Simply put, he needed hope. But to instill that relies on setting out a credible path, realistic, something he could actually believe in with a clear logic, that would provide genuine motivation. So between us we devised a gradual step by step process over time. He explained to me the counselling he had received, and while it is an emotional support it could never deliver what was required. Indeed, I understand he was advised to pursue a correspondence course on the basis “he needed a hobby”.

What he needed was far more substantial.

The additional tragedy in all of this was that by December last year there were clear signs the strategy was working. Both in terms of physical and mind states, it was so pleasing to see something like “the real Alain” again. While not completely out the woods, the progress he made in the space of a year was quite phenomenal, something again we spoke about. I also stressed that at the heart of this progression was having a regular routine provided for by the college course.

By comparison to 12 months earlier he was now speaking far more optimistically about future plans, so I suggested that irrespective of what he decides to do, he could now see what works, and that having a comparable routine to that of the college course would likely be essential, so plan ahead of the course finishing.

I found him to be in good shape when we met up in April, however sadly there was evidently a quite dramatic regression by June. While Nan, your own health scare naturally caused him considerable concern, you shouldn’t feel that it acted in any way as a catalyst. Instead, I doubt it’s any coincidence that the course had finished and unfortunately he had been unable to find an alternative.

Despite the progress made by December I knew things were still delicately balanced, and so during all of our telephone discussions from then until April I continually touched upon the idea of sourcing an alternative regular routine. When he advised he was considering a return to the correspondence course, I felt it was potentially dangerous, but also suggested if balanced with even some form of part time work then that would still deliver forward momentum. There again, that’s easy to say, not so easy to do.

I feared the direction of travel and had hoped to put aside adequate time to try and devise an alternative constructive plan to address what we all know was a complex and difficult issue, but the year passed so quickly and regretfully as it transpires the opportunity didn’t arise in time to do so.
I hope that may help bring a little understanding of at least the basics behind what we tried together, but if there is any information of any description you feel I may be able to provide which would help further, or if you’d just like a chat, please feel free to contact me anytime and we can speak by phone or in person.

I know the pain you will be feeling now, the strain both of you endured and the phenomenal efforts you and Alain made in attempting to defeat a perfect storm. These circumstances have no bearing on who he really was and the impact he made on all those who really knew him. He has left a far greater impression on all of us than most. I’ve just read online the notification in The Herald – “wonderful human being”. Perfect.

You should also know, if you didn’t already, you were very much loved parents.

Again, my sincerest condolences and let me know if you need anything

Take care
(Added – hope to be back in Glasgow late January / early February, so can pop round there. Will drop you a line in advance)