The grieving brother of a young Liverpool FC superfan who died suddenly of an asthma attack has penned a stunning open letter to the club that brought them so much joy.
Dublin schoolboy Callum McGarvey, 12, suffered the attack at a sleepover with friends on July 2, 2017, leaving his family “decimated” by their sudden loss.
Some will see football as a sport, a trivial past-time.
But Callum’s older brother, 24-year-old Chris Ryan, has shared the “immortal connection” between the Reds and his cherished memories of his “loving, caring and friendly” little brother.
Sparked by Liverpool romping to their first title in 30 years, Chris has shared an immensely powerful letter explaining what the club means and meant to his family.
The ECHO has decided to share Christopher’s poignant letter in full:
I write this letter for my brother, for three years now I have wanted to write this, but it has brought me extreme pain.
It’s been next to impossible to get pen to paper but seeing Liverpool win the league after a 30-year wait has given me the strength, determination, and belief to get my brothers story heard.
Callum McGarvey was my brother, best friend, and biggest Liverpool fan I knew. Time has gone by in the blink of an eye, and me and my family have been left decimated by his death.
Callum died suddenly and tragically of an asthma attack while on a sleepover in his friend’s house. He was 12 years young and had just finished primary school.
It was two weeks before his 13th birthday – when he should have been embarking on his teenage years and his new life in secondary school.
Immortal connection to club
Liverpool Football club has given me more than anyone will ever know.
My memories with Callum have become immortalised with a connection like no other. It’s more than just a football club, we’re one big family.
It’s a unique and rare thing but those affiliated and connected to the club will understand, Callum understood it and felt it himself.
You’ll Never Walk Alone is much more than a song, prayer or hymn, it’s a way of life and it’s carried and lived with by those who are of our massive Red family.
It will come as no surprise that Callum was a massive Liverpool supporter and Liverpool Football Club was a massive part of his life.
The trips over for matches watching games on TV together are memories I will cherish for life.
One of the first trips over almost ended in nightmare as our scheduled game with Chelsea was postponed because of the cup.
We had flights and accommodation booked, so myself, Callum and our dad, Pat, went over anyway and decided we’d make a weekend out of it and let Callum do the tour of Anfield for the first time.
One thing I’ll never forget about that day was after the tour it was during the expansion of the ground a few years ago, when we were leaving Callum crawled under a construction fence and grabbed a piece of rubble from the site and said “now I’ll have a piece of Anfield forever”, and we still have it in his room to this day.
‘He was buried in a Liverpool kit’
Callum had built up a massive collection of Liverpool shirts for a kid of his age, he loved them! Liverpool was his life.
He was even buried in a Liverpool jersey with Sadio Mane’s name on the back, and his coffin was carried through the church by me, our dad and uncles, while You’ll Never Walk Alone was played and sung by us and the hundreds in attendance.
He loved match day programmes, so I bring him home one and leave it in his room whenever I get the chance to get over.
I was spending the summer in New York when he died. I’d been there six weeks when I got the call about what had happened but I remember very clearly the last phone call I had with Callum days before his death.
We talked about Liverpool’s new signing at the time Mohamed Salah. I am not going to lie: I questioned the signing, but Callum argued he would be a hit.
I received a text a day or two later and it was a photo from Callum. He had got the new Liverpool jersey with Salah on the back. Sadly I don’t think he ever got the chance to wear it and it still hangs on the back of the chair in Callum’s room where he left it.
To watch Salah go on that season and break the record for most goals scored in a 38 game season was incredible and I knew Callum would be looking down smiling in testament, as though he knew it was going to happen.
Callum ‘dreamed of Van Dijk signing’
Callum was a big lad for his age, very tall and strong. He was a defender himself so when it came to footballers, he tended to idolise defenders as opposed to attackers like most kids his age do.
It looked like that summer we were set to sign Virgil Van Dijk and we looked forward for the signing to be completed but unfortunately it did not happen until that coming January, after Callum had already passed.
I know how much he was dreaming about Virgil playing for us and when it finally happened, I cried for him because I knew how much Callum would have loved it.
Virgil if you see this, know you have a massive fan in heaven and his name is Callum McGarvey.
Dealing with grief and loss
If you have been affected by any of the details mentioned in this story there are people who can help you.
Most people grieve when they lose something or someone important to them.
The way grief affects you depends on lots of things, including what kind of loss you have suffered, your upbringing, your beliefs or religion, your age, your relationships, and your physical and mental health.
Grieving is a totally normal process but there are way to get help if you need support.
Your GP is a good place to start. They can give you advice about other support services, refer you to a counsellor, or prescribe medication if needed.
On our first trip over when we did the tour we were lucky enough to bump into Martin Skrtel in the mega store and I’ve never seen anyone more starstruck than my brother that day. He was terrified to ask for a picture so I had to step in and make it happen.
Callum bought an autograph book straight after but unfortunately never got any names in it.
Following Liverpool’s phenomenal European season of 17/18, we managed to book a place in the final in Kiev. I went by myself without a ticket leaving as early as the Wednesday.
I had a stopover in Istanbul of all places. Being there early gave me the opportunity to take it all in, experience it all, the city, the competition, the fans, the events, and everything else the competition had to offer.
‘I would like his story to be known’
It became a bit of a spiritual journey and never felt alone, I felt Callum by my side every step of the way.
I managed to get myself a ticket against all the odds. The result was the only disappointment, but didn’t we only go to Madrid the following year and lift big ears for the sixth time.
I wanted to write Callum’s story because he didn’t deserve to have his life cut so short – but like the old saying goes, its not about the years in your life it’s about the life in your years, and Callum was full of life.
He was a loving, caring, friendly and happy young lad. I would like his story to be known by the players, managers, legends, and fans of our historic club.
It would mean to world to my family and most importantly to Callum up in heaven.
Every match day gives me the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the match with my brother. He may not be with me physically but spiritually he’s right by my side and cheering on every kick, pass and goal.
Luis Suarez used to kiss his family’s names on his wrist when he scored, and I too have Callum’s name tattooed across my wrist and in memory of him I kiss it with every goal we score.
So I ask who reads this to pass on his story, let it be heard and hopefully one day his idols will know of him and his undying love for our football club.
Grief is love’s unwillingness to let go.
In memory of Callum McGarvey – YNWA