“I want to write the most profound and powerful piece I’ve ever written, but I can’t even eat a grape right now,” Dean laughed, as he lay next to me in the hospital bed during his last few weeks. I realised if Dean couldn’t write something, I’d try, because what is more profound and powerful than the impact Dean had on the world.
I met Dean at a press launch in Birmingham a few years ago and our friendship became unbreakable. Dean was shy, insecure but warm and friendly, and I found myself in awe of his ambition and drive.
You are probably reading this because you know Dean, or at least know of him, but you may not know that Dean started this publication with Josh at just nineteen years old, teaching me and so many others that no one can stop you doing what sets your soul on fire, and there are no limits other than the ones you set yourself.
All you have to do is type his name into google to find discover his success and immerse yourself in his writing, his achievements are endless and his work is inspiring. Dean was a bold writer and campaigner, but he was also a son, boyfriend, brother and friend. He was a 21 year-old that would douse himself in glitter, flamboyantly dance around the kitchen lip syncing to Ru Paul’s Drag Race and turn an ordinary conversation into a Lin Manuel-Miranda style Hamilton rap. He had a vibrancy for life and an indestructible fight, he took more knock-backs than any of us will ever face, but he always got back up with his head held high, ready to take on any challenge thrown his way.
Dean had a sparkle in his spirit that will never be forgotten. He was kind, patient, loyal and selfless. Despite fighting a long hard battle with cancer, he was always first to ask how everyone else’s day was, and I couldn’t even put a number on the countless times he would utter the word sorry, because he felt like he was being an inconvenience, even during his final weeks. He was introverted and humble, but put himself out there when campaigning for injustice.
There is no doubt Dean’s presence was indescribable, as it translated through the honesty of his words. Writing was his outlet, and he connected with so many through that. He had a way of sparking something within people, even if his encounters with them were brief. He took time to comfort and console those who opened up to him. Dean was a listener, but a listener that always had the right words. In times of trouble and distress, I still hear his voice in my ear pushing me in the right direction.
After we lost Dean, myself and his close friends were inundated with messages of love and support, but it was those that expressed how Dean had changed their life for the better that really struck a chord. Dean hated being called an inspiration, simply because he didn’t believe it, he was so humble and modest as he always just did what he thought was right and I don’t think he ever realised the effect his existence had on the world.
The tenderness of his tone seeped through his writing as people conveyed how the authenticity of his voice through his cancer columns gave them an understanding of what their loved ones were going through, or gave people diagnosed with the heart-wrenching disease a feeling of reassurance as his words guided them through the toughest of times.
He cherished everything in life, from Instagram-worthy brunches, matcha green tea, long stem broccoli and bouquets of lavender to the way the rest of his world would fall silent when he watched a ballet. He wrote: “This week, tell your mum you love her, make an effort to text your friends back and appreciate every moment you have. Yes, the bus being late, it raining and your friends cancelling on you sucks, but take a step back and express gratefulness in all you have.” Dean taught myself and many others to look at the bigger picture, and his 21 years on this earth is a remarkable portrait that has been crafted so delicately by the gentleness of his heart and fire in his soul.
I’m not quite sure how the world will fit together again without Dean, but his words will live on for eternity. In these moments of pain and grief, it’s so important to keep Dean within us all, to express kindness and gratitude, and take his fighting spirit to follow our passions, campaign for the change and keep his sparkle shining so beautifully bright.
Words – Amy Stutz