Wish You Were Here


This is the story of how Philippe Watteeuw, a class mate of mine from secondary school, died of leukemia in November 1975. I only found out in the beginning of October through a throwaway remark by a cousin of mine. I went to visit another friend from university, Jan De Meulenaere, who had been left in the dark about Philippe’s condition because his mother thought it might distract him from his studies (he had to resit some exams in September, and had just heard that he had passed).

Knowing that Philippe was a big Pink Floyd fan, Jan bought their latest album, which was rather aptly named “Wish You Were Here”. We went to visit Philippe at his home, and several of his friends were already there, sitting around his bed. For someone aged 20 it’s rather hard to deal with a situation where one of your class mates will soon no longer be there, and playing the album seemed like a good idea to cover the fact that no-one felt much like making a conversation.

Presumably it must have been played several times afterwards, and presumably his family must have thought the wording to be well-suited to the situation, because on his funeral a month later parts of “Shine on you crazy diamond” and “Wish you were here” were played. To this day I can’t help but think about him more than 40 years ago when I hear one of those songs.

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