© John O’Brien
I met Daniel in Berlin during Folsom Europe. It was during a time right after I had lost my parents and grandparents and found myself quite alone but had found new family within the community. That year I was invited to Evidence in Nice, where I once again saw Daniel, and where in this more intimate and friendly setting we truly got to bond more. In the mornings after breakfast some of the guys and I would hang out on the large sofa in the hotel Lobby waiting for everyone, and ended up in a big cuddle puddle chatting away. It was here where they jokingly said that I should have a leather title for cuddling and Daniel started calling me his Cuddle Monster.
During a visit to an LGBT centre, there were several gay youth who were shy and seemed intimidated to talk to me, and some wanted to take pictures, so I had embraced them and took photos and after that engaged them in conversation about themselves and setting them at ease. I had not noticed that Daniel had observed this and after that he spoke to me about those kids, a tall guy dressed like me, openly myself and proud about being gay is like a hero and that being kind, generous giving and accepting their hugs really meant a lot. He told me to always be myself and proud. It was after that we really became close friends, and I looked up to him as a role model and family. When Daniel lost his mother, him and I spent a lot of time talking about the experience, the difficulties of dealing with the grief and an elderly parent left behind, as I had also recently experienced after I had just gone through the same, and together we could laugh and grieve and talk about our lives and give comfort and support.
That February I was in Antwerp right after my birthday, and when I met with Daniel and friends, out of his bag he pulled one of the most amazing and sweetest surprises I Cherish to this day, as he had a Leather Sash made for me: “Mr. Cuddle Monster” Although Daniel wanted me to compete for MAL, here I could not think of a more appropriate title that makes me happy whenever I look back at that moment.
This year with great sadness we lost Daniel. A tireless supporter of the community, a mentor, but most of all we lost a great friend and one of our family. Blood is thicker than water, but leather is thicker than blood. The memories became treasures, and as I look at the sash hanging in my room and our pictures together, I can hear his voice calling me Cuddle Monster and smile gratefully for the times we’ve had. Farewell Daniel. We love you.