Maxwell George French died at 21.18 on 25th June 2007. He was 24. It had just been a normal Monday evening. My tea was ready on the table when I got back from work and we sat down to discuss our days. Max then got into his sports kit ready to play football with some friends he organised French conversation evenings with. Not being the sportiest person, he was full of trepidation, but after some reassurance he left excited about the match.
An hour later I received a phone call. Max’s friend told me he’d suffered a cardiac arrest and that I had to get to the hospital as soon as possible. I jumped on a bus and once there, sprinted into the hospital.
I was led into a small room and given the news. Max had been jogging along joking about his lack of fitness when suddenly he collapsed. Despite the efforts of friends to resuscitate him, there was nothing anybody could do. I had no idea how to act or feel.
Asked if I wanted to see him, I immediately said “Yes” thinking Max would shout “Surprise!” and give me a big hug as soon as I entered the room. This Max in the room was not the one I remembered, and try as I may, it’s difficult to shift the image of him lying there.
The next few days were agonising and confusing. Even eventually hearing the cause of death, HOCM, there still seemed no meaning or reason for Max’s death. It’s hard to accept that someone so wonderful was always going to die young. The Coroner’s insistence on ensuring the correct cause of death meant the funeral had to wait 3 weeks.
The funeral took place 17th July 2007 in Sheffield. His coffin was plain white and covered with messages, photographs, flowers and paintings. It added a part of Max’s personality to an otherwise awful day. The sheer number of friends at the funeral was a testament to the number of lives he’d touched in his 24 years.
I got to know Max in our last year at Plymouth University on our return from our years abroad. I bumped into him and his friend on a Friday evening, and although memories of the night are hazy, knew Max was going to be a great friend.
We started sitting next to each other in lectures, which was highly entertaining due to Max’s ‘banter’ with staff and students and mind-blowing intelligence.
This eventually led to lunches, cinema trips and walks around the Hoe. His flatmates eventually told me of his growing feelings for me, as they were sick of his moping. I began to see him in a different light.
During one cinema trip I noticed his excessive fidgeting and checking out of my sitting position, obviously trying to decide how to make a move. Stifling giggles, I eventually grabbed his hand. From that moment on we were inseparable, spending every hour of every day together.
After graduating, Max gave up his plans to return to France to move with me to London. We quickly settled and threw ourselves into London life; exploring the city’s sights, going out with friends, attending fancy dress dog shows . . .
Max completed a TEFL qualification and became an English teacher, a perfect career for someone who took such delight in correcting people’s poor grammar! His mission was to introduce such words as ‘poppycock’ and ‘balderdash’ into everyday English language.
Max was one of the friendliest people I have ever met. He was intelligent, hilarious, fun to be with and had a big heart. He truly lived life to the full. He could have made the world a better place and I now endeavour to do this in his memory. I will love him forever. I fully intend to throw myself into fundraising for CRY to prevent others from the pain I am currently suffering.