Today was my friend J’s funeral.
Again, as I have written before, this is not my story, but several things came together for me this morning and I wanted to try and capture them.
- There is the celebration of a life, cut short, but full of fun.
- There is the recognition anew – that we come into this world with nothing , and we can take nothing with us when we leave, except the memories we have made and the imprints our actions have left on others.
- There is the beauty, simplicity and conviction of faith
- And there is something (or things) personal that I want to reflect upon.
In the last 10 days I have been ridiculously forgetful, basically ditsy. I have been rushing around at 200 miles an hour, unable to concentrate on anything much, forgetting things (some important – like not cancelling a £200 online shopping order after I had done the exact same shop in person, some less so) My eldest son has been looking at me quizzically and commented “This is just not like you Mum”. And its not.
My concentration and output at work has been virtually zero. Forgetting things scares me at work for pretty obvious reasons, but I have not had any clinical sessions this week, the time freed up for other important matters to be dealt with Well they haven’t been.
On Tuesday evening I was struck down with diarrhoea. Severe diarrhoea. The kind that keeps you max 30 foot from a lavatory and leaves you wrung out, fatigued and sore. I have no idea what the cause of that was, emotional stress? Maybe.
Not good really. The house looks like a bomb has hit it, the dishwasher is kaput and the fridge is stuffed with enough perishables to feed a blinking army ….
This morning I was berating myself (again) for my poor performance in life over the last week. Then I looked in the Mirror and thought “so what HAVE you been doing ?” And the answer, of course, is that to the very best of my ability I have been supporting my friend K, J (before he died) and their son through a hideous, terminal illness that has been painful, terrifying and traumatic for much of the last 3 years. That I have lost a dear friend, been brought face to face with my own mortality, organised a BBQ for 30people in the back garden at a moments notice and generally lived through the pain and heartache of death, bereavement and funeral planning.
I would not have had it any other way.
Every single thing I have done or tried to do, has been done with love and a genuine gratitude for the support that both offered to me in the past. I have been well placed to offer support, both geographically and by virtue of my medical knowledge. But I have not shirked from it, not taken the comfortable option (not my problem), not avoided hard conversations and not left K to manage alone.
Thats ‘what I have been doing’ and I’m both proud and grateful that I could help, and very honoured to have been trusted to be that close to a family in a time of need.
A woman I have heard a lot about came to talk to me at the post funeral ‘do’. As we were talking I heard the familiar inner voice of perfectionism and self blame in her narrative. When she finished speaking, I smiled at her and said, “But others will see what you HAVE done; we are always so much harder on ourselves than we need to be, look at how hard you have worked and how much you have achieved” I could see that this reframing of recent events was a bit of a revelation to her, and she responded by thanking me. That’s when I knew that some of the lessons I have worked so hard to believe in, to trust and incorporate in to my life are actually working.
Courage, compassion and connection. All there.
The closeness and loving kindness I have been part of the the last few weeks, the genuine compassion and community spirit of J’s many, many friends … it has been humbling and profound.
I know there is much more I need to reflect on, and much more that I have leaned from this whole experience. But today I have shed tears of grief, literally sobbed as though my heart would break, and also been a big part of a moving and uplifting church service that I will never forget. I have laughed, connected, chatted, listened and hugged so many people.
no wonder I am emotionally exhausted.
May God bless you my friend, you will live on in our hearts and our memories.