This is probably the hardest post that I have ever had to write.
Brian was someone who I classed as a twitter ‘best friend’, and I know that he classed me likewise, though the ‘online friend’ concept seemed pretty strange to him – he often asked me if it was OK to refer to us as friends etc, which, of course, it was. We used to speak a few times a week via DM and he was a massive aviation geek, something that we used to talk about an awful lot, and that I know that he used to get a lot of pleasure from, especially with his near daily flights to far-flung and exotic parts of the World.
I often used to tease him about how dull it must be for him being back in Knightsbridge, London (on those rare moments when he wasn’t on an aeroplane – he had visited over 110 countries, and all 7 continents), and he always used to love playing up his new status as a Brit, and would happily take/make a joke about his American roots.
He was absolutely dismayed when I wouldn’t let him buy me a birthday present in 2012, and so in 2013 he absolutely made the decision to buy me a few Blu-rays for my birthday, without my knowledge, and surprise me with them in the post on the day. That is the sort of guy that he was – he was the sort of guy who asked for nothing, but really enjoyed giving – as also reflected in his philanthropic work across the World.
This past year has been incredibly difficult for me, what with my documented health issues, redundancy and the associated job search and then, more recently, my deciding and planning of a trip to Australia to see friends over there.
With regards to Australia, I was umming and ahh-ing about it for weeks, largely owing to cost etc, but Brian absolutely gave me a shove and told me to go for it, and to have an adventure, something that I believe that he practiced in real life too. He was instrumental in the planning of my trip (we discussed airlines and routes until the cows came home, and I know that he loved these conversations and being able to apply his airline ‘geek’ to my situation, even down to seating choice). In short, the whole reason that I am going on this once in a lifetime trip is because Brian inspired me to reach out, grab life with two hands, and just do it. He was so so happy for me when I told him that I’d made the decision and was going to do it, and so my trip to Australia is totally going to be ‘for Brian’.
Unfortunately, there is to be no memorial service, that I am aware of, in the UK, as Brian originated from the US, becoming a UK citizen in 2012, which also makes his passing a little more difficult. Once in Australia, I intend to do something of a personal memorial on a beach in Australia, when the sun sets and everything is beautiful, peaceful and still, to pay my final respects to a man who inspired me beyond imagination, and who really is responsible for where I stand today. He took a genuine interest in me (and, of course, I him), without motive, and I feel absolutely devastated to learn that he has passed.
I’m still pretty numb from the news and have barely slept since finding out a few days ago via someone who anonymously sent me the official statement via the ‘contact me’ part of this website (if this was you, PLEASE come forward and let me know who you are, so that I can thank you, and see if you have any additional details? I really need more information than was on the statement, for closure, and a full picture of the situation, if nothing else).
A few of my favourite Brian tweets – really gives you a flavour of the man:
— brian shepard (@monacoian) August 31, 2013
@monacoian bless you lovely – was only moaning about a flight home so not urgent – but good of you to try and flex some muscle!! 🙂
— Gari Davies (@DarkAeon) July 21, 2013
Brian, you were always an avid reader of my site, and I hope that you’re reading this now – please know that it was an absolute pleasure to have made your acquaintance, and I’m totally numb that you’re no longer with us. You were, without doubt, the nicest and most genuine chap that I’ve ever had the pleasure of ‘meeting’, and you’re someone that I am never, ever, going to forget. Comforting to know that you’re probably geeking out, now being able to spend 24/7 up in the sky fella, living the dream eh? Much love, and eternal gratitude. Gari x