'After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.'
~ Joanne Rowling
I remember the 22nd of April, 2008. It was just less than a week before my end-semesters began my first year at college.
But why do I remember that day?
I remember that day because I witnessed an unbelievable—and tragic—event occur.
Liverpool had drawn Chelsea again in the semifinal of Champions League, yet again. Watching was quite an issue, as you can't be expected to keep awake throughout the night/early morning and attempt to attend classes at 8 a.m. the next morning.
But with an Anfield tie in the offing, the temptation was too much to turn down.
All was well, and contentment with the firt-half display turned into absolute joy when (who else?) Kuyt slotted-in in before the interval.
A rather evenly contested second half that saw us defend in remarkable fashion left me calculating by what should we score at Stamford Bridge, where we hadn't opened our account under the early Rafa years.
However, while lightning never strikes twice, when it does—just once—it's quite electrifying.
A Kalou corner just moments before the end of the match left Riise in two minds.
He would inevitably head the ball into his own net.
And it was the Kop end.
I remember my first reactions in a large but stuffy common room, in front of a 42-inch LCD Samsung (the irony of seeing tragedy unfold in your opponent's sponsor's product) TV along with a group of seven or eight other partisan fans.
I was speechless, my hands scratching my then-almost bald head. My train of thoughts were disturbed by fellow Kopite and then-final year student Prateek Dhingra, who went into a huge swear cum criticism of Riise.
I still remember his words echoing against the backdrop of a booming TV sound, "Why didn't he kick the ball!?"
By the time the the game was restarted and the final whistle blown, I was already out of the room, heading to my hall of residence on a hot April night.
It was a total disaster, and reading the post-match interview of Rafa was really disappointing.
The boss' reasoning was right, too: Riise was a left-footed player, the ball was coming in from the right side, unfavorable to the left-back, Riise was trying to clear the ball.
Well, he almost did.
I didn't want it to end that way.
Probably more of not hearing about a disappointed Liam, who would have watched the match, no doubt.
I wanted my team, Liverpool, to win it for Liam, rather than just for a a "huge step towards a final-berth in Moscow" headline in the morning papers.
Liam Harker was no different from any 17-year-old teenager from Darlington, supporting European powerhouse Liverpool FC.
With all being fine and well, Liam's life took a U-turn when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in mid-February of 2008.
Liam was admitted to the Royal Victoria Infirmary Hospital in Newcastle, and was treated with an intensive course of radiotherapy.
By the 3rd of April, Liam was told he had beaten the cancer as the tumour had started to shrink.
But the worst possible twist occurred the following day when Liam became very ill and x-rays revealed the cancer had not only returned, but spread throughout his body.
His parents were told more radiotherapy would only help prolong his life by a matter of weeks. By the 11th of April, Liam was told he had just two weeks left to live and was allowed home to die.
Liverpool's official site, www.liverpoolfc.tv, ran a story concerning Liam's plight just before the home tie against the Blues.
Liam and his father were invited to Melwood for a complete tour and a meeting with the players and Rafa.
Liam's health condition was worsening by the day, and the doctors recommended against a trip to Melwood.
Liam's father , however, made the trip and was gifted a shirt signed by all Liverpool FC players, along with other memorabilia.
During the run-up to the tie at Anfield, RAWK—Red And White Kop—organized a banner for Liam to witness from home, that he wasn't alone in the battle.
Fortunately, a banner by the Kop which read :“Liam Harker, God give you strength, be with us in Moscow, The Kop. YNWA.” was captured by the television.
Jane Winrow, a close family friend to the Harker family, said: “When we saw the banner on TV and the commentator mentioned it I was in tears.
“Reuben, Liam’s dad, phoned me straight away. Hearing the joy in his voice was just priceless."
The flags were then sent to Liam and they adorned the walls of his room in time for the second leg of the semifinal at Stamford Bridge.
Life wasn't as giving, as Liverpool crashed out with a 3-2 defeat after extra time to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Liam saw his heroes defeated, in what would be his final days.
Liverpool never made a trip to Moscow—but even if they had, it would have been without Liam's support.
Liam passed away on a sunny day of 5th of May, 2008.
What I learned?...
What makes us a Kopite?
Is it just watching Liverpool always win?
Or is it criticizing Liverpool as an uber-crap team when results aren't favorable?
I really wonder time and again after the filth our fans talk about almost everywhere, bar some sane ones.
People, or rather Kopites, just can't learn the power of believing or trust.
It's really disturbing to think as to what Liam's reaction would have been after our crashing out in the 2007-08 campaign from the Champions League.
I did not feel that bad, because we had another year/s to challenge for the Champions League title.
I felt worse, because it was Liam's last chance to see us being the "Kings Of Europe."
There was no next year for Liam.
My support, no matter we lose 4-0 or 10-0, will remain the same.
Why should it change? I see the yo-yo moods of Kopites and pity that they haven't learnt from Istanbul or Wembley or from Liam.
Believing is all that matters, even till the end.
Call me a sack of shit or a deluded dreamer, but it still stands true—rather than focusing on negative's we should look at the positive's.
It makes a hell lot of difference in the atmosphere surrounding the club. Progress is made by being positive, not ranting and reveling in the negative.
I put myself in front of Liam's eyes, a Kopite whose support for the club was unflinching and pure of heart, considering his request to his father being to bury him in a Liverpool shirt.
It's a message to Kopites to stop the crap-talk, because you're not only bringing a bad-name to others but also destroying Liam's would-be Reds.
At least bring yourself in front of Liam's eyes and then complain whether Rafa is the right man for Liverpool or not.
Liam didn't have a chance to complain, and wouldn't have given the chance. Why, then, should we?
Who are we to question the man who has bought us a Continental title and an English Cup title?
I'll be patient, even if it takes two to three more years, because I've been given good health thanks to the Almighty.
While, everybody's changing (in terms of support), I don't feel the same and never will.
As ever, "In Liam and Rafa's Liverpool I Trust."
Sources: liverpoolfc.tv and The Northern Echo.
Picture: Liam Harker