Wednesday, 9 February 2011
My next door neighbour died today. She was about 53.
She had lived here almost as long as I have; I remember her as a keen hockey player, going off to major matches every Saturday. I have a photo of her some years later, standing high on a ladder, noticeably pregnant, clearing ivy from the back of the house, smiling down at me. I recall her rise to becoming head teacher of an excellent school, and the increase in her levels of stress and blood pressure as work became the greater part of her life.
And I recall the shock of hearing four years ago that she had suffered a catastrophic stroke, surviving it only because she had just been admitted to hospital minutes earlier. She never really recovered, and latterly, with the recurring cancer that also struck her down, was looked after at home by a team of carers. She faded out from the neighbourhood, but everyone remained aware of her, asking after her, not forgetting.
Her child, now a young teenager, has been cared for by friends who, despite their growing exhaustion, have been a shining light to us for their selfless devotion to them both. No one knew how much she understood of their care and compassion, or if she saw the toll it took of them, but she fought wordlessly to stay alive far longer than anyone predicted.
Until today, when she gave up that fight.
It is difficult to articulate how we feel; words like "a blessed release" come too easily, as do "she isn't suffering any more", but the stark fact remains: a mother, a daughter, a friend, a teacher, a neighbour, has been taken too soon, too cruelly, too incapacitated to tell her child how much she loved him or to say goodbye to those who loved her.
Better to remember her as she was, all those years ago, smiling down from too high up on a ladder, full of life and energy, confident that she had all her life before her.
Posted by rachel at 22:59