I drove past your house this morning. Paul phoned me this evening. He said I must have known. I sent you kisses, I just wanted you to know I was with you. You were already gone.
We did everything together. The same surgeon, hospital and oncologist. From diagnosis through to chemo, operations and miraculously remission. We followed each other back into work, we held each other’s hands when we saw our new friends die and finally we were there for each other when we relapsed within 2 weeks of each other this summer. But whilst I went on to have an operation which saved my life. You did this bit on your own. Your way. The way you always said you wanted to do it. We talked about it lots. I am sorry if I couldn’t accept it.
We met in High Wycombe a couple of years ago, you holding out a bunch of bluebells nervously waiting to see what I looked like. But we needn’t have worried, we were mates from the word go. And boy, were words your thing. We didn’t stay long at Costa Coffee, but moved immediately across the road to The Falcon and settled at Table 8 where we drank wine from taps and talked and talked and talked. We met regularly during chemo and after when we could hold down food. This was our most favourite haunt. One day when I am ready, I will go back and raise a glass to you.
Kate, you were my inspiration. I was in awe of your utter lack of pretension. Your wit, wisdom, love or words, your inner steel, your kindness and generosity, your amazing spirit, and yet despite your fierce intelligence; your incredible humbleness. You were always the first to compliment me, never admitting or accepting the praise I would try and heap back on you. You ALWAYS knew what to say and I shall miss this more than anything. Even more than your voice, your texts, your smile and our endless lunches.
I will remember you as the girl who threw herself back into work and life with such utter abandonment, loving every moment. You grabbed it with both hands. And your spirit will live on with all those you touched. And most of all with your darling Bea and Oscar who you loved and talked about so much. Lois and I will promise to keep an eye on Bea at school and when she is ready, will share some wonderful stories about you, her mum.
But finally I want to share a few words with everyone. These were YOUR words and you wrote them along with many others when you read my manuscript before even the publisher got their hands on it, and as usual your insight was spot on. Your opinion was all I needed. It was invaluable. You gave me some priceless tips most of which I have included in my book, and I never got to tell you it is dedicated to you. Here is a very small sample of how you felt. I hope it comforts others as it did me;
- Dwell on your achievements to date, not your possible failures in future.
- I have produced and raised two wonderful kids, attracted some fantastic friends, secured a job with status and profile, seen lots of the world and experienced real intellectual and physical pleasure.
- What I can or can’t do in the future is too abstract and disarming to dwell on today (or any other).
- Enjoy taking a few more risks than before. New hair styles, new social situations, new work challenges. NOTHING is as herculean as it once felt.
- Take time to help repair those around you. This journey has not just damaged me – it has left those around me shell shocked. I spend a lot of time revisiting our conversations and trying to find ways of subtly addressing the fears that they experienced.
- It is ok to feel sad occasionally. Although life is fun again, it doesn’t take much to flip back into ‘rabbit in headlights’ mode.
- Take a strong hold on your finances! Living for the moment is expensive. Never spend tomorrow when you can buy it today is utterly enjoyable but financially disastrous.
- My life expectancy may be less clear, but my wardrobe and make up collection has gone from strength to strength… as has my ‘life’s little luxuries’ budget.
- We have to learn to do ‘whatever it takes’.
- And finally; Come on we are mothers, put on your heels, some lipstick and slap on a smile.
When I am ready, I will fight on in your name. But tonight I will mourn the loss of a great friend. Farewell my darling. Love you.