I wrote a few words / a tribute you could say, to Selcuk, to be read out at a Specsavers meeting that I, these days, find it very hard to attend.
The last 2 I went to, Selcuk pushed my wheelchair for me.
The last time, he already knew he had a brain tumour, yet was always there to help me, despite his own battles.
As I’ve previously alluded to, compassion isn’t a given with work colleagues, and I’ve found this with my own – saying nothing is the easiest thing to do.
Saying nothing has never been my style.
This is what I asked a friend and colleague, Irfan to read out. As always I tried to stick a little bit if humour in there too.
Irfan told me that those present did seem to listen intently.
Selcuk – ‘ a tribute ‘
Selcuk Arslan joined us in Specsavers, Staines, as a lab manager, about 15 years ago. He told us ( in his pigeon English – that never really got an awful lot better … ) that he had run optical outlets in Turkey and had some sort of optical professional qualification – that to be honest seemed a bit dodgy to say the least.
As we were pretty desperate at the time, and Sel maintained that he could glaze a bit, we offered him a job in the lab on a trial basis , not having much faith that it would work out…
I think it’s accurate to say that he proved to be the best lab tech that we ever had, quickly becoming the lab manager, and then a few years later the store manager ( continuing to confuse the patients of Staines with his Turk-lish dialect….)
Sel had that rare quality of being in authority, yet managing to keep everyone on his side, without pissing anyone off.
The staff were loyal to him, liked him, and never tried to take advantage of him.
The patients trusted his straightforward and honest delivery,borne out of knowing exactly what he was talking about. Not a single patient ever complained about anything that he’d ever said or done.
It was clear that after we had helped him get a British passport that he wanted to prove himself and get on in life. He was far too good to be just a store manager.
With our backing, he was approved by SOG and bought into Feltham, joining a former Optom partner who had simply the most awful history with retail partners. This lady had proven herself impossible to work with, upsetting several partners who had already left.
Selcuk, in his calm way, tolerated her and improved the business performance significantly. I know he felt less than happy with his partner yet kept his mouth shut and played her game, keeping friction to a minimum for years.
Eventually she announced that she was leaving the UK and selling her shares.
At that point Helen and I jumped at the chance of working again ( this time in partnership with ) alongside Selcuk.
We always knew that he would captain the ship and invite minimal outside help, even from us, and that was the way he proved to be. From that perspective he was the perfect partner, always doing the best thing, and never unable to deal with anything ( well, other than writing letters that unless you spoke Turk-lish too, made any sense – so I had to re-write a few of those for him ! )
He was such a decent, honourable man.
Honest to the last and dedicated to his job,even post diagnosis ( where many would have thrown it in )
He had another talent – that he rarely talked about – he was a Master Scuba dive instructor,having worked for many years in Turkey responsible for the teaching and safety of thousands of clients, over the years.
He loved the outdoors and in latter times, he and his wife spent most holidays exploring such dark and dangerous places as Wales and even that other place, Scotland.
Now I think of it, he even braved Ireland ( tho that was on a jolly at the expense of Essilor.. )
In December2013, he went exploring again, this time driving around Europe, with his wife as always.
He wasn’t long into his trip when he suffered a seizure. Then he had another.
Optimistically, they hoped it was ‘only’ epilepsy and he was flown back to Britain for tests.
Those that know about these matters will tell you that it looked bad from the start, that it’s unusual for a male in his 40’s to become epileptic. Personally I very much feared the worst, having consulted medical friends at length.
Conversely, Selcuk never gave up, never once mentioned dying, always talked about ‘once he was better’ and his next holiday.
He embarked on chemo and radiotherapy, after his first major brain tumour excision in Feb 2015. This at first seemed to work, to a degree, halting the regrowth of his aggressive tumour.
Selcuk decided to visit his family in Turkey in the Summer of 2015.. He hadn’t been home in years ( the authorities had labelled him a draft- dodger, as he’d refused to do National Service with the Turkish Army – on pacifist grounds – and he would have been arrested at the border. Latterly they ‘forgave’ him and allowed him home )
Whilst in Turkey, his immune system flattened, he contracted an unspecified infection, meaning that he had to stop taking his anti cancer drugs. This led to a drastic resurgence of his tumour.
In the event the suspicion was that his body had harboured Lyme’s Disease ( as is really not uncommon now – caught from a tic, somewhere on his travels – probably Scotland, the family think – another reason not to go there ..)
This proved to be a further ( and possibly the final ) nail in his coffin. Already immuno-suppressed and up against it, his body couldn’t fight, the tumour rapidly regaining its original size.
In November I saw Sel at Charing Cross hospital. At that point, he was unsteady on his feet, had lost 20 pounds, most of his hair, his left eyelid had closed and he’d lost all spark. He looked 20 years older.
He still spoke ( unrealistically ) about his total recovery.
I saw him last week. Irfan ( who is reading this out ) and I ( plus an old friend and colleague, Sheila ) went to visit his home.
Sel was now completely bed ridden, paralysed down his right side and unable to speak at all. He could move his lips, but no sound came out.
He could no longer swallow, and was not being fed in any way, only being hydrated by injection and given large volumes of anti seizure drugs and pain killers.
The Lord only knows to what extent he was able to think, but his family believed that he could understand my last words to him – words of friendship and devotion and humanity.
As I am now paralysed myself, I could not go upstairs to see him, so I Selcuk could only see and hear me via an iPad, held by Irfan.
It was the saddest thing I’ve ever done thus far, yet also the best thing I’ve ever done.
Within 4 days, Selcuk had died, there in that bed. Mostly he was asleep the last month or so, unable to converse at all since New Year’s Eve.
All of us that knew him well are devastated at the rapidity that this fine man was snatched away from us.
He is a loss to the world of old fashioned decency and honour, a description that I keep coming back to.
To further add to this tragic occurrence, as Selcuk and Christy had just moved to a larger house ( wishing to start a family ) and needed to renew their mortgage, Selcuk was obliged to inform the mortgage company of his medical condition. The life insurance company promptly dropped him like a hot stone. As a consequence, his debts will remain debts and his widow will have to find a way to deal with them.
It was Selcuk’s dying wish that he be buried next to his mother in Turkey.
There is a cost involved in transporting a coffin many thousands of miles.
Can I propose that those generous enough to want to help, put something in the hat that I will leave here during the break, so that we directors can help with this.
Thanks for listening. Please take a moment to quietly reflect on Selcuk, and also on the sheer fragility and wonder of good health itself, that is so easily, and incorrectly, taken for granted.
Russ Dawkins ( Sel’s business partner and buddy )
I hope soon to organise a gathering for those that would like to celebrate Selcuk’s life )