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Farewell

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 nearer 

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. 

I shall miss….

The sunsets and sunrises on the beach

Waking early and itching to get out to explore what’s new and around me 

Turkish bread toast with smashed avocado and the best coffee at a little cafe for breakfast

My many lovely Aussie friends 

The huge sense of peace and relaxation this holiday has given me 

And I will enjoy being greeted home by John and beginning a new non working life in the UK – adventures to come, more time with people I love..

But I will miss the big Aussie skies! 

Back again 

A lifetime ago I sat here in this popular (noisy) cafe overlooking the beach. That time not alone – with the young very enthusiastic president of the student union I was Head of HR for. It was part of my induction. Mostly it was an opportunity for him to talk and for us to have a delicious lunch overlooking the beach. Those were the days. 

I’ve had lots of opportunities to be reminded of my Sydney life in my first week back here. Friends reminding me of the life and loves of then, work colleagues reminding me of some of the big things I did, back in the day. Leading changes across 3 countries. A lifetime ago.

Watching the city workers in Martin Place last night spilling out of their offices ready to engage in weekend life. Strappy shoes and fitted dresses. Used to be me. Like a relay race. The baton passed to others to make their contribution. 

And here I sit many years later eating a delicious kale and avocado salad, drinking watermelon juice after a morning swimming and enjoying the sun, and just a bit of quiet amongst the social whirl of my holiday. Really appreciating these little top up moments. Time to be, to think, to not think, to remember, to forget, to unwind. 

It’s been a working life of contribution to others, doing my best to make things work better for them – better services, better places of work, better leadership, better people practices. And now there is the contribution I have promised myself to give Dad for as long as he has – to do what I can to reduce his anxieties, ensure he feels loved, help him out with practical stuff, be a sounding board, be a loving daughter. The contribution I make too to my lovely marriage with John ( so reciprocated – he’s such a giving loving caring man) and of course the contribution to my friends all over the world. They’re so precious. 

And now there’s lots of time for me – feels like a start. My trip to Aus is clearing the cobwebs, creating space just to be and think about what next. 

My life couldn’t be more different now from how it was when I was here in this cafe all those years ago. I could never have predicted it. It’s a different life but a happy one. Looking forward to what comes next and most importantly just enjoying what is. 

Grey day 

Speeding along in the train through the wet cold grey English countryside on my way to Brian’s London funeral. The mood of the day is fitting. 

62 and we’ll be gathering to farewell him, in his local after the cremation. Drinking pals he left behind – swapping social drinking for solitary vodka drinking at home. 

John is dreading it. His 35 year friend. Still left with a sense of if only, could have done more, why, could I …