This is Samuel Webster.
He’s my great uncle. My nan’s eldest brother … which is me being either patronising or helpful depending on your point of view. If you are lucky enough to actually know me you’ll have a pretty good idea of which one I was actually aiming for.
He was born in 1899. Twenty-seven years before my nan was born. And he died on the 28th September 1918. Exactly 62 years before my sister was born. In Belgium. Aged just 19. From “wounds” … less than seven weeks before the First World War ended.
He’s always been someone I’ve known about from being quite young. I can remember my mum pointing out his name on the cenotaph outside the church attached to my primary school when I was little. It didn’t mean that much to me back then, I suppose. Other than my great uncle’s name being carved in stone for everyone to see. That was pretty cool.
I do have a bit of a thing for cenotaphs. I can’t walk past one without taking a photograph. I’m like a cenotaph paparazzi. A cenotaph super fan. If there was a monthly magazine all about cenotaphs you can bet I’d have every copy stacked in chronological order and all the centrefolds would be well thumbed.
A quick Google search for “cenotaph magazine” has just revealed that no such magazine exists, thank goodness.
With it being the centenary of the start of the First World War this year my great uncle Sam has been on my mind a little. Using Every Man Remembered I managed to find whereabouts in Belgium he is buried and my mum and I both left commemorations for him.
But, more than just that, he started me thinking about unfulfilled promise. About how a 19 year old man with his whole life ahead of him … career, wife, children … lost all of that due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There have been a number of moments in my life where I have taken stock. Thought about who I am and what I’m doing. Made me think about whether I’m making the most of everything. About whether I’m fulfilling that promise that I had when I was 19. Or even whether I’m fulfilling the promise I still have at 36 (yes, I’m only 36). On each of those occasions I have made decisions to tweak my life a little. To do more of the things that make me happy. To be bolder. To be less afraid of living.
But I am afraid. I worry about the decisions I’ve made. The decisions I’ll make in the future. I’m scared of the unfulfilled promise. Scared of the hope. Scared of the disappointments. And, then I think of my great uncle Sam. About the fear he must have faced in the last year of his life and I wonder if I’ll ever be brave enough to one day have my name carved onto anything.