My friend Louise died this week.
I’m going to miss her.
For many years she has lived with cancer. Living stoically. Hiding from us all when a brave face was too hard. Re-emerging when she had the strength to smile and protect us from the reality of her private world.
Towards the end of July, four of us had coffee sitting in her kitchen. The kids ran past us as we sat at the table, in and out of the garden, full of the excitement of sunshine and holidays and weeks of catching up to do. We chatted. The past few weeks had been difficult for two of my friends. There were tears amongst the words. I knew this place. The place where bad things happen – one after the other – the place where life feels really really hard. This time I was the listener.
My friend Louise was breathless.
That afternoon as we chatted words slipped out – disease, lungs, struggle, plans, can’t…
She asked for help.
Later as dragged ourselves from the table , always later than we had intended to leave, a trail of words falling behind us – with the sun still shining and our children tired and hungry – there were whispered conversations as the words echoed in our ears and their reality sank in.
That was the last afternoon we all sat together in her kitchen.
A few weeks ago, Louise appointed us her organising committee. She didn’t consult with us. We didn’t mind.
Life became a whirlwind. She had so much to talk about, so much to organise, so much that needed to get done. She was running out of time. She might not see Christmas. We were the very best organising committee we could be – three of us together forming the ultimate woman team – all of us together racing breathless through the valley of the shadow of death.
On Saturday Louise stopped organising.
Someone turned the volume down. We spoke in whispers, all conversation framed by the less than steady breathing in the room.
On Monday Louise died.
Yesterday we bid her farewell.
There is one fantastic organising committee feeling at a bit of a loose end today…