Today, I said goodbye to a friend. Not a best-of-friends friend, but just a friend, a colleague, a someone-to-chat-with-as-we’ve-both-got-5-minutes friend.
We used to work in the same office, 10 or so years ago, she had been there longer than I and she would teach those who were following the same path she was on. She was a patient and good teacher, I seen to recall. A year or so passed, I moved site, changed roles, but when I came back to the site, I’d try to catch up. It didn’t often work out, but I tried. She had a son a couple of years before me, so I went to her for advice a few times, and it helped knowing she’d followed a similar path.
A few years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer. She did well, fought it off. I only found out near to the end of her treatment, and it didn’t feel right to say anything… after all, we didn’t speak often and, well, I didn’t really know what to say. I mean, what can you say when it’s nearly all over?
I saw she’d beaten it, and I was happy, but again, I’d not said anything when she was fighting it, and so now, what can you say when you’d not said anything when it mattered. I liked some photos and positive messages she’d written on Facebook, I hoped it was enough, to let her know I was happy she was OK.
And then, a few months ago I saw she was back at Christie’s Hospital. She was having more scans. A few weeks later, I was back at the old site and (fortunately) bumped into her. We chatted like old times, shared some war stories about our kids and then she asked if I knew she was back in for treatment. I’m happy to say I was able to say I knew, but I didn’t say much, just that I hoped it all went well and that she was looking good. We didn’t talk for long, but I’m glad we did.
A few weeks ago, the posts from my friend began to change. The posts, still optimistic, were now about a legacy, about pictures, about blankets, and about spending time together. There were pictures of breaks and holidays. I could tell that the outlook had changed… But what could I say? The happy pictures got likes, and again, I hoped that was enough.
And then, I saw a post, my friend had passed away. And it hit me, I’d never really said anything that mattered.
Today, I went to her funeral. Her husband greeted me at the wake, by name. He remembered me, maybe from Facebook, maybe from their wedding. I don’t know. But, he knew me in a room full of people. And eventually, I choked out that sometimes you want to say something, and he replied that there were no words sometimes.
I am glad I went today, if only to know that in some way, I finally managed to say something, even if it wasn’t really enough.
And I realised that, but for the whim of God, or, should you not believe like that, then, on the wheel of chance we call life, this fate that fell on her could fall on any one of us. It could be my wife, my child or even me. It could be my brother, or his family. It could be my neighbour, or another colleague… anyone. And in that case, could I still say nothing? I hope I can find at least something, next time, to say.
Rest in peace, Lindsey. My best wishes to your husband and son, to your sister and mother, and to the friends you have left behind, in a world a little less brighter.