On Friday evening, while I was cooking dinner and eating with friends, drinking a little too much wine, laughing, having fun and planning a trip later in the year to Centre Parcs, my friend Jane (not her real name) was travelling in an ambulance from hospital to hospice with her husband of just over 8 months, as there is nothing more doctors can do to slow down the progress of his incurable brain tumour. Paul sobbed uncontrollably all the way, knowing that it was most probably the last journey he will ever make.
As well as Jane, Paul will leave behind a 12 year old son, his parents, his sister and her young family, his stepdaughter and countless other friends and loved ones. Paul and Jane are both in their mid-40s.
Although I don’t know Paul well, I’ve known Jane for about 16 years and in that time, she has had more than her fair share of troubles. In her early 20s she decided to search for her birth mother, who had given her up for adoption when she was born, and when she found her, discovered she was a long-term alcoholic, and her birth sister was a heroin addict. She forged some sort of relationship with both of them, though as addicts often are, they were extremely selfish and needy. The birth mother died of liver disease around five years ago, and Jane went to be with her for her last days (there was nobody else, as the sister was in prison on drugs-related offences).
Jane has also suffered two ectopic pregnancies (the second of which was horribly mis-managed by the NHS and resulted in the loss of her second tube and with it the chance of a much longed-for second child), and underwent quite extensive fertility treatment in between the ectopics to have her daughter.
Her first marriage was emotionally abusive and the subsequent divorce traumatic – getting back on her feet took her a while.
Last summer, only weeks after Paul’s brain tumour was discovered, Jane’s adoptive mother was diagnosed with cancer, and Jane nursed her until her death in November, all the while having to deal with Paul’s incurable disease as well.
And now this.
Sometimes, there just aren’t any words.
Life can be so cruel.
Life is so very short.
Every day, every hour, every moment of happiness with our loved ones is truly a gift.
Sometimes we don’t remember that enough, sometimes we are not thankful enough just for normality.
I pray that Paul is able to find some peace, and I pray that those he leaves behind can find the strength to rebuild their lives and, in time, find their new normal.