A friend passed away while I was in Fiji. She’d been battling cancer for seven years and finally lost the fight.
I met her through work, when she was recovering from breast cancer. When she had a breast reconstruction around five years ago, her doctors discovered the disease had returned.
There was no cure, but the cancer could be kept at bay with treatments and surgeries.
She was so determined to stay alive for her sons, who were in their early teens at the time.
My friend made sure to live every day to the full – she bought the sports car she’d always wanted and went on fabulous holidays whenever her health permitted.
I hadn’t seen her since COVID-19 struck, but she told me about six months ago that things were “pretty shit”.
She said she could no longer drive, write or blow dry her hair. Her speech was slurred, she had a tremor in her right hand and had trouble walking.
She sent a message in late October saying goodbye, telling us not to feel sad, as she had enjoyed every minute of her life.
It’s hard to know how to respond to a message like that.
I told her that I would love to see her, but understood her family was her priority.
I signed off saying “if you ever need a laugh or a chitter chat, I’m your girl”.
That was the last time we spoke.
I wished her happy birthday a few weeks later on Facebook.
Perhaps I should have kept contacting her, but it felt like she’d said her goodbyes.
She posted this meme on Facebook in early December:
My eyes fill with tears thinking of her yearning for peace. I posted a comment sending her love. Should I have done more? It’s too late now.
After her funeral, a friend posted on Facebook: “Thank you for your laughs, the singing, the dancing, the holidays and yes, for dancing on the piano with me at The Whitehorse.”
As he noted, she was a wickedly funny friend.
I feel sad that I forgot to send my friend a message before I went overseas. I feel sad that she passed away while I was gone. I feel sad that I couldn’t go to her funeral because I have COVID-19.
A lesson that I am still learning at 53 is to make the most of every precious day and let people know how much they matter to you.
But I feel happy that I knew her, she was a beautiful, caring, outrageously funny woman and the world is a little lonelier without her.