2016 in a nutshell.

“2016 was the worst year ever!” – Thats something I’ve seen a lot of people say on social media over the past few days. Most of them are referring to the amount of celebrity deaths that have occurred within the last 12 months. I hate to break it to you, but the reality is 2016 wasn’t the worst year ever. It was just another year, and let me tell you why…

First of all let me address the obvious. Yes, the world did lose a lot of famous people, who entertained and inspired many of us in our every day lives.

The acting world lost Alan Rickman, Doris Roberts, Victoria Wood, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

The musical world lost David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, and Leonard Cohen.

The sporting world lost Muhammed Ali, Geordie Howe, José Fernández, Arnold Palmer, and of course not forgetting the entire Chapecoense football team.

In fact, if you were to print every notable death from 2016 listed on Wikipedia, you would get 416 pages filled with people who were inspirations to many, all sadly lost from this earth within the last 365 days.

Chances are you won’t personally know someone on this list. I know I don’t. The biggest loss I have encountered this year was my grandfather whom I lost in May. He was the second biggest influence and inspiration in my life behind my mum. He doesn’t get a Wikipedia page, or a BBC News article. He did however get a small piece in his local town newspaper, and a short blog post written by yours truly, but that was it really. The important thing is that none of that matters. He will always remain a huge part of my life, even if the rest of the world moves on and leaves their memories of him in the past.

And that brings me to my point here. In todays world, with the Internet forming its own little bubble in which people live in, it is easy for a lot of us to get sucked into a universe in which celebrities seem like they are our family and friends. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat – they all give us an insight into the life of our favourite singers, actors, or Kardashians. We become so obsessed with their world that it is sometimes easy to forget we have our own world around us, neglecting our own families to check up on what Kylie Jenner is wearing today, or whats next for Brangelina.

Outside of the celebrity world, there is a seemingly non-stop cascade of negative news such as the murder of British politician Jo Cox, the fallout of Brexit, and whatever is going on in American politics. There was the terrorist attacks of Brussels, Nice and Berlin, which together claimed the lives of at least 130 people. And you can not forget the civil war in Syria and the ongoing conflicts throughout the Middle East.

Despite all of this, there has been some good news throughout the world in 2016:

A solar powered plane circumnavigated the earth. Sri Lanka was declared malaria-freeNew chemotherapy breakthroughs have increased the survival for pancreatic cancer. Scientists found the gene thats linked to ALS thanks to the money raised from last years ice bucket challenge. Tiger and manatee numbers are growing in the wild, and the Giant Panda is no longer endangered. The ozone layer is slowly repairing itself, and Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar!

The ultimate fact is that people today always tend to dwell on the negative news, and simply forget about the good stuff that is happening in the world. Always focusing on the bad things in life, forgetting to give a thought to all the good things going on elsewhere. They feel like it is only them experiencing these scenarios. But thats not true. There have been over 108 billion people who have walked this earth. Only 7% of them are alive right now. Everyone of those individuals has gone through adversity. Everyone has been affected by tragedy. And what this reminds us is that regardless of what happened, you are not alone.

Since you started reading this blog over 200 people have lost their lives. 60 million people die every year. Each and every one of them an inspiration in their own way to their friends and family. However, in the same amount of time you have been reading my ramblings, over 500 people have been born into this world. These babies will become the next generation of intelligent minds, celebrities, athletes, and inspirations to others.

Maybe its time to stop dwelling on the past and the negatives, and start focusing on the future and the positives. Think of it this way, if 2016 is a book, then the next couple of hours make up the last few pages. Finish off on a high, party with some friends, tell someone you love them, have fun and go wild. Because with tomorrow brings a brand new book, the sequel to 2016, and it all starts on page 1.
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Goodbye Granda

As some of you will know, the last 3 months of my life have been incredibly tough. Just 12 hours after the Eisbären season came to an end, I was sitting in a hospital in Northern Ireland visiting my Granda who had just been diagnosed with terminal & aggressive cancer. We didn’t tell him I was coming home. Only 3 people knew of my last minute trip home. Over the next month I ended up spending more time in Belfast than in Berlin, travelling between the 2 cities almost every week. It became somewhat of a normal way of life.

Then just a couple of days after my birthday he sadly passed away. From receiving the news to arriving at my front door in Greenisland was just 14 hours, the wonders of modern transport helping me get back to spend time with my family when it mattered most. Those weeks racked up quite the credit card bill, but it was worth it to spend an extra few days and moments with the most important man to ever be in my life, and to share in the many stories and memories people had about him.

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I decided to continue on what would have been our third annual trip to Normandy for the D-Day commemorations in early June. He had repeatedly told me to still go regardless of his health situation, but with him not there it was a strange experience. Seeing the outpouring of love and respect from not only the group that he annually travelled with, but also the group of people from Saarbrücken and their incredible gesture of holding a moments silence for a man they only seen 3 days a year made the week an incredibly memorable one.

During the week I scattered some of his ashes on the D-Day beaches at Arromanches, as despite not serving during World War 2, he always loved his annual trip to France with some of his best friends. And Arromanches has, in his opinion, the best mussels in France, so it seemed like the perfect place for part of him to forever be resting. Seeing the faces of all his friends filled with tears was something I will never forget. Ian Crangle, my grandas annual room mate for these trips, and the company bugler, played an emotional rendition of ‘The Last Post’. Bystanders all stopped for a moment and looking out over the sea. It seemed like time stood still for the minute I was on the beach, and I hope I made him proud.

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Then exactly 2 months from his passing, the entire family got to say their goodbyes as the remainder of his ashes were spread to sea at Carrickfergus, a place he called home for over 50 years.

For those of you who never knew Alan Hamilton Senior, he was a great man. To summarise his life in just a single paragraph is a challenge, but I will give it a try!

Born in 1938, he grew up in a Belfast suburb before lying about his age in order to join the British army. He joined the Royal Ulster Rifles where he served during the Cypriot war of 1957/58, and also in British occupied Wuppertal in Western German in 1960. He returned to Britain to marry my Grandmother Iris in 1963, raising two daughters and working as a Texaco fuel tanker driver. He reached the level of branch manager before stepping down to spend time with his now extended family of grandkids, but also to take care of my grandmother Iris, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimers. She passed away in 2004, and the void in his life she left behind was noticeable. If anything he started working even more then with the Royal British Legion. He became chairman in 2006, a role he proudly held for 10 years until his death. He was also a main organiser behind the annual Armed Forces Day in Carrickfergus, even bringing the famous Red Arrows display team over in 2013.

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I was very close to my Granda, and the last 2 months since his passing have been extremely strange. No longer receiving the weekly whatsapp message about a random topic has been a strange void in my life. And I just know he would have been constantly on the phone to me about the Northern Irish football team in the Euros, as he always had immense pride in his national team, no matter what the sport. Plus, he would have loved that England v Iceland game!

It was tough to say goodbye to a man who was effectively a father for me. He taught me most of what I know today. The realisation has hit hard that I am the last remaining Hamilton to continue our family name, a name which he single handedly built up to its current status and reputation in his local community. And not only that, but to live in the shadow of a man who had so many friends in so many places, is going to be an incredibly tough job.

If I can even be half the man he was, I will be happy.

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Alan Hamilton 1938-2016