Imagine how you would feel if you picked up the newspaper one day and saw a front-page headline telling you that a friend of yours had died.
Last week this happened to me. On Tuesday evening I picked up a copy of the Eastern Evening News and saw that a friend of mine, Holly Slater, had died in the streets of Cromer the previous Sunday.
To say that Holly and I were close friends would be wrong. I hadn't seen Holly for over a year, and only really knew her because I used to work with her mother, Jan, at the garden centre.
Holly was a beautiful, lively girl with a lovely young daughter, Chloe, and a family that loved her dearly. Yet during the entire time I knew her, Holly was fighting a battle which probably cost her her life. At the age of just 28, Holly was taken away from us.
The battle she lost was with an illness she suffered from. Her illness was addiction. While the police stated in the newspapers that they were seeking information about Holly's death, I knew almost instantly why she had died. She had lost her battle with her demon.
When I first met Holly I didn't know anything about her problems, and when Jan first began to work at the garden centre, we merely exchanged pleasantries. We never really talked about anything.
It was quite a while later that I found out about Holly's problems. I didn't know the exact details, but I knew enough. At first I didn't really know how to react around Holly whenever she came to the shop, but I soon realized that, like you and me, Holly was a normal person who just happened to have an illness.
For the majority of the time, Holly was a delight to talk to. We would talk, we would laugh, we would moan. I enjoyed talking to Holly, and sometimes playing with Chloe. Chloe was just so damn cute it was hard not to like her.
I would also hear stories about how difficult Holly found things at times. In a way I kind of related to what Holly was going through.
A short time later I found out that Jan was writing an article about Holly and the effects of her problems on her family for a national magazine. As soon as we found out that we were both writers, Jan and I seemed to gravitate towards each other a lot more, in a way that wrestling fans always seem to find each other.
The article itself was one of the emotional I have ever read. In it, Jan wrote of Holly's battles, of the ups and downs of her family, and of her hopes and dreams for the future. It was one of the best articles I had ever read, and afterwards, I had a new-found respect for Jan and her family. It was obvious reading the article that Jan and her entire family loved Holly, and would do anything to help her overcome her illness.
It seemed that by writing that article, Jan was hoping that Holly would "snap out of it", would come to realize just how many people loved and cared for her, and would realize that the world would be a poorer place if anything happened to her.
On Sunday, 13th July, the world did become a poorer place, as Holly collapsed in Cromer town centre.
A few days later, I went to the place where Holly died. There were tons of flowers on the steps where she laid. I couldn't help but get a little emotional.
Holly Slater was three years younger than me, and at 28 years old, she lost her battle with her demon. She left behind a beautiful young daughter who will probably never know exactly what her mother was like, and a family who would have done anything for her, they loved her that much. The police may not know what happened to her, but those of us who knew her story do.
My deepest sympathies go to her family, especially to little Chloe, and to her friends.
Rest in peace my friend.