Cancer and sepsis finally defeated you this morning Anne and we will miss you. Downstairs neighbour, friend of my John’s for some 35 years supporting him through key points in his life, a friend of mine since we first met some 6 years ago. 

You searched so many of your adult years for your mother – young catholic unmarried mum forced by the Catholic Church and her parents to give up you her first child. Year after year like all those other stories being heard now you searched for that mother. Records lost, records burnt, try next month/next year, sorry we can’t help you. The nuns and their church have so much pain to answer for. 

You had your own family but that gap gnawed away. At 65 you finally found your mum, but a year too late. She had died. Your joy at then tracking down a half sister, meeting with her and catching up on a lifetime you were excluded from. Heartbreakingly sad and happy. Your happiness at having family though was precious. I remember you showing me the photos on your phone from your trip over to Ireland to meet then the first time. 

10 years since initial diagnosis and you have had such a tough time. Throughout your smile, your infectious humour, your loving supportive relationships with others, your joy at the simple things in life, your enjoyment at securing a bargain. Such a warm person. You’ve been loved by many in your 68 years. 

I saw you just six days ago and it felt then your end was not far away. A shadow of your lovely self. 

Your husband John will struggle and I will do what I can to support him through these next days just as you would always do for others.

I shall miss you Anne. A beautiful sunny image of you from our wedding – so beautiful in your hat. Thank you for being our friend. 

They come in 3s

Packed train back to London 

Three things:

1. Man with outstandingly strong BO sits next to me and proceeds to slip his shoes off….. I sniff on my sugar free mint polos wishing I was anywhere else. 

2. Hen Party alights shortly after BO man appears. Full of high spirits and alcohol they continue their raucous celebrations all the way up to London. 

3. Older man gives 2 young Polish women in the seats behind me his best chat up lines ” are all the girls in Poland beautiful like you?” Etc etc etc… emboldened he then asks ” so how old do you think I am?”. The two young women confer and reach agreement. “46” they say confidently . In a much smaller voice the guy responds in a splutter of disappointment “but I’m only 37” … and aforementioned chat up grinds to a halt shortly after….

Friday evening train back to the capital. 

Getting nearerĀ 

I was shocked to hear your voice this morning and then to see your face at the window as you threw down the key for me to let myself in. Just three weeks ago we had been walking in your favourite bit of Dartmoor, you, me and your Labrador. A stormy day, sky full of drama we strode out. We walked and talked, mostly you talking. A companionable walk, easy given how little we really know each other. You ran the local shop til the end of last year. Brief chats over years when I popped in to get the odd things for Dad. 

Your diagnosis of cancer some 14 months ago came with an estimated 6 to 18 months life expectancy. Bowel cancer caught just too late. So you went about settling your affairs, telling family and friends, selling the shop, sorting executors and wading through all the accumulated possessions of a lifetime, a lifetime of only 62 years. 

As the shop closed you gave me contact details so I did get in touch, to see how things were. Cups of coffee out at some different places, the opportunity for you to talk about things you couldn’t with family or close friends – like the music you want for your funeral. 

And one day you suggested a walk on the moors. So we did and it was lovely. I took photos of you with your dog, careful not to show how gaunt you already were by then. A man, his dog and one of his favourite walks.

Just three weeks later, some texts exchanged in between, I heard and saw you today. You’re now much closer to your end. Frail, gaunt, not able keep food down, trousers flapping held up by braces, your voice with much less power. We sat in your smoky flat and you talked about knowing “it’s the end game now” ( your words). In two weeks time you are planning to move to your sister’s to spend your final time being cared for by her. I hope to see you in 11 days time when I am back down but today it feels quite possible that I may not.

I feel so sad about the opportunities you won’t have, the life you won’t be able to lead and I feel sad for those who have loved you for so long – family and close long term friends. I will be sad at your passing. It’s been a pleasure though knowing you and an honour you felt able to talk with me about things you couldn’t with others. I hope that helped.

Go gently.