On the 20th April, James was laid to rest surround by his family, and friends. The following is one of the speeches that was read by a friend, during the service. A tribute to a man who achieved so much, and touched so many lives.
Since James passed away, I’ve been trying to find a fitting word to describe our mate James. I spoke to friends and family, but one particular word kept popping into my head — Titan.
Now you might think the word Titan sounds a bit “Greek mythology”… but in fact, if you Google it, a Titan simply means, “an extremely important person”.
Albert Einstein was a titan in the world of science.
Usain Bolt is a titan in the world of athletics.
A titan is someone who is powerful and influential.
James was a titan of many many things.
His selfless dedication towards championing disability rights, and raising awareness of Epidermolysis bullosa (EB) made him a titan.
His drive and his passion to change the narrative of what society deems to be ‘normal’ made him a titan.
His unfaltering quest to overcome every obstacle that life put in his way, made him a titan.
His stubbornness not to play by the rules… made him a titan.
A giant of a man and someone I’m very proud to have met and will always call a good friend.
I met James a few years ago, but it feels like a lifetime. We stumbled into each others lives because of the show Big Life Fix. Before the show aired, some of the designers I know, had contacted me to tell me about this lad from Liverpool who took the most remarkable photos.
But it wasn’t just his photos they were intoxicated by; it was his spirit and his energy and a fantastic philosophy to Live, Laugh and Love to life’s fullest.
James and I struck up a friendship very quickly and found we had more in common than separated us. We were just a couple of geezers with a lot of shared interests and wacky ideas.
We talked about technology.
We talked about ideas and hopes.
We talked about philosophy.
We just talked. He loved to talk.
When you first met James, one of the first things that would strike you were those piercing blue eyes and that massive smile.
Features of a person with so many stories to tell.
Within those stories, I met a man whose life has been so full, and so fulfilling.
A man whose love for his supportive family will always shine on through the rest of us.
A man who puts the rest of us to shame with anecdotes…
How many of us here can say they’ve had tea with Siegfried & Roy in Las Vegas?
Or how many of us here can say we’ve photographed Spiderman and members of the Royal Family?
How many of us can say we’ve dined with the very best chefs in the world?
How many of us can claim to have gracefully wheeled through the halls of government with messages of hope?
How many of us can say they’ve made a nation laugh, cry and lean forward on their sofas on multiple occasions.
And how many of us here can say that we’ve raised an extraordinary amount of money, and awareness, for causes that mean so much and change the lives of so many?
This was a life packed full of so many memories and achievements. Too many to list here today.
Trust me when I say that those achievements will not stop just because he no longer wheels amongst us, the opposite — James’ journey is only just beginning, and through all of us, it will continue for many many millennia.
Our friend James was a titan.
What I also discovered inside James was a philosopher. A man who observed the world and processed it in a way that very very few people ever will.
Here’s an example…
There was a night about a year ago when we were Skyping and talking about life and holidays and favorite places we’d visited.
James loved the family escape to Marbella because it was a safe haven for him.
A place to spend time with his family, and a place to eat good food.
A place to photograph life’s oddities, and a place that he told me, he loved to look up at the stars.
“Why so much interest in the stars”, I asked?
“Pete, in my mind they’re not stars at all, they’re little openings from another place where my love can pour through and shine down, and keep an eye on Tommy and the family when I am no longer here.”
“Something for them to look up too, to let them know, and remind them that I will always be with them and always be happy, wherever I am.”
The empathy that James exuded from every part of his soul is indeed without equal.
He’d patiently answer my sons questions, and make sure that what they saw as unusual, was in fact just a different type of normal.
He would then tell his friends. Who tell their friends. Who tell their friends.
Because we do not know when we will move on from this world, we tend to take things for granted, and perhaps too often think of life as an inexhaustible well.
And yet everything happens only a certain number of times. And a very small number really.
How many more times will we remember a particular afternoon of our childhood that is so profoundly a part of our very being that we can’t even conceive of our life without it?
Perhaps four or five times more? Maybe not even that.
How many more times will we watch the full moon rise? Perhaps, twenty.
James knew that and armed with that knowledge, that sharp wisdom he crammed in a considerable amount and taught many of us to do the same.
To quote the big man;
“While I’m here I’m having fun, making memories and leaving something behind — making memories for other people to look at. I want people to remember that taking photos and making memories is what I enjoyed, and where I found happiness.”
Keep looking at his photos, and you will see James.
Some people say that adversity builds character, but when you spent enough time with James, you realised that adversity reveals character.
If living starts with self-acceptance, James lived a huge life in a short time, because bizarrely, he believed that what he had was enough.
He dared to be authentic, vulnerable, and perfect in his imperfections.
He was a titan.
James believed that what we earn in this world is mostly a reflection of our attitudes and beliefs.
If we act and talk negatively our world will be negative.
If we think, act and talk with enthusiasm, love and positivity, we will attract positive things.
James attracted so much positivity because he was so positive and he is a mirror to us all.
By giving us all a mirror, he will have altered the course of our histories and that impact, and the ripple effect on our world is truly immeasurable.
I will undoubtedly wake up every day and live a little bit harder and appreciate life a lot more. I will live every day trying to be a little bit more James.
That’s James legacy.
That’s why, to me, he’s a titan.
So — As we walk out of here today, our job is to continue what he started. To Live. Laugh. To Love and to be more than humanly possible.
To transcend our flaws and make the most of what we’ve got.
I will not be sad about the loss of a friend. It’s not what he would want, it’s not what he stood for, and it’s not what we should do.
We must celebrate a good life lived well. A great life.
The life of a titan.
We must cherish the gifts of inspiration he gave us and the memories he created like the artist that he was.
We must learn to live without him around in body, but give him our thoughts every day in silent reflection and ridiculously loud laughter.
We must smile more and live a bit harder.
We must look up at the stars more, and down at our feet less.
I will continue our work together, and I will make sure that what we started will never end.
We love you James, the titan. We will never stop loving you.
There’s a new, brighter star in the sky for us to look up at.
Rest in peace brother.