Neil was the first of our group to go

Morag McKinnon directed I AM BREATHING together with Emma Davie. She had met Neil and Louise while studying at Edinburgh College of Art. 

I didn't know Neil all that well at Art School. Memories are hazy and consist of just general fun, laughter and nights at the pub.

There was a lot of fun and a LOT of laughter - and Neil played his guitar and sang songs. I remember Neil's dad had died and he had dealt with it incredibly well. He had that Yorkshire pragmatism of just getting on with things and most importantly - he kept his sense of humour.

The group of friends that kept in contact since Art School have I think all been held together over time by a shared sense of humour. Neil's idea of ribbing a friend who wasn't able to spend his last new year with him was to send a text with a photograph of him draped in a sheet with a toe tag on. I think it was his way of being undefeated by the disease and utterly remaining himself.

When I think back all those years ago I don't think many of us had any sense of what our futures would look like, probably being too busy with the concerns of being in our early twenties, but I think from certain things Neil said that the thought of MND may have flitted though his mind, but it certainly never prevented him from living his life to the full – and this I think is the message which he felt compelled to relate both in his blog and in the film

I remember I walked up the un-tarmacked road to their house, looked up and saw a little group of people heading towards me consisting of Louise, Oscar in a buggy, and two friends.

Louise said: "We've come to head you off at the pass." I had no idea what she was talking about. She explained that Neil was talking with some doctors in the house about something called an Advance Directive.

This was the point where (for me) everything changed, where I got to know the severity of the disease and actually realised what the outcome would be.

The last time I had seen Louise and Neil, he had been in a wheelchair on a visit to Edinburgh. I had not understood what MND was and what it did. It was only when I saw Neil getting into a car using crutches that I began to see what the disease was doing to him.

When you haven't seen the gradual process of someone you know being slowly debilitated, the effect of seeing that person in that new situation is quite overwhelming, and I kicked myself when the first thing out of my mouth was "how are you?". Neil, true to himself, would put anyone at ease and made it "normal". It was this generosity of spirit that characterised his approach to just about everything.

I think the way you remember someone changes. I got to know Neil in a whole new way in the making of this film. From being the guy that I had gone to the pub with, had a laugh with, he became someone who I think had a lot to teach me.

Before this I believe I had a quite powerful fear of death. While I wouldn't say this is gone – Neil's example has given me a completely different understanding and feeling towards death. His pragmatism, his humour, his honesty, bravery calmed me.

My memory of Neil seems to be constantly evolving as I remember new things. As the film goes further out into the world I see how warmly people respond to him and react to what he has to say. Neil is still being sociable and still reaching out, so my memory of him is very much alive and growing all the time.

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@ tweeted this page. 2013-04-14 19:59:42 +0100
"The first of our group to go" – Morag McKinnon remembers Neil Platt, from art school to #MND...
Film by Emma Davie & Morag McKinnon
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