Sarah, My Friend

Yesterday I sadly said goodbye to my lovely friend Sarah, who lost her fight with breast cancer. Throughout her illness Sarah remained positive, determined to live her life to the full, provide for her family and to have no regrets. She was a shining example to all those who knew her and will be missed by so many people. So this is my tribute to Sarah, an amazingly beautiful and brave friend.

When colleagues become friends

Sarah and I had been colleagues for some time, working within the same department, never working on the same team, but passing the time of day, chatting whilst we worked and occasionally working on an enquiry together.

Then, a supervisor made a decision that would change both our lives forever. The teams were shuffled around and Sarah and I began working together on a day to day basis. We were both a bit put out at first, not because we didn’t like each other, or couldn’t work together, but because we were both quite happy on our own teams, we had our own friends, but we decided to make the best of it and crack on with our work.

I am eternally grateful for that decision. Working with Sarah brought us closer and we soon realised that we had quite a lot of things in common, crafting, reading, musicals travelling, amongst other things, but we also had the same ethics. We both valued family life, knew how important our friends were and were both determined in our work to provide the best service that we possibly could to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

When the teams were re-shuffled, Sarah and I continued to be firm friends both in and out of work. We were able to talk about anything, had some amazing experiences and supported each other through some really difficult times.

A shock diagnosis

Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was called for an early mammogram due to a trial in the local health authority. She had no symptoms at all, but it was discovered that her cancer was already well developed and she was swiftly taken into hospital for a mastectomy, followed by gruelling rounds of chemotherapy. Although Sarah knew that her cancer was incurable, she certainly didn’t take that lying down. She did this without complaining, always smiling and having a firm belief that when one treatment wasn’t working, there would be another one that would.

She was determined to live her life to the full and no matter how ill she was she always had time for her family and friends. She cared for both her girls and her mum, despite being exhausted some days. She told me often that she was not afraid of dying, but was always concerned about the effect that her death would have on other people. She was reluctant to let people know when she was suffering and always had a goal to work towards.

Sometimes there were tears, when she was clearly worried, particularly in relation to her two daughters, but generally when you asked her how she was she would say that she was doing alright.

The hardest time was a few weeks ago, when her treatment was stopped and she knew that there was nothing else that could be done. She was initially rocked by the news, but again set about making plans for her family, dealing with unfinished business and trying to make things as easy as she could for those around her.

Sarah never stopped fighting and was determined to keep active for as long as possible and it was only in the last few days of her life that she was unable to do this. She was able to be cared for at home and spend the time that she had left with her family and close friends. I feel blessed to have been able to spend time with her, not only in the last few weeks, but over the last few years. I am also really grateful to her family for allowing me to be there and to the other friends who have given unending support.

A lesson in living a good life

I have learned a lot from being friends with Sarah. Mostly that you should live a good life, not waste time complaining about the things that life throws at you, but to accept those things and do all the things you want to do anyway.

It is true that none of us know how long we have left with our family and friends. Sarah taught me that it’s important to make each moment count. Take pleasure in the little things. Make goals for your life, no matter how small they are. Don’t let small things grow into big problems and don’t put off things that you really want to do. Try not to bear a grudge and remember that a small  kindness can be a huge thing to someone else.

I am definitely a better person for knowing Sarah and I hope that some of her kindness and selflessness has rubbed off on me.

Long lasting memories

I didn’t want to end this blog on a sad note as Sarah would definitely not approve of that. Everyone that knew her will have their own memories, from nights out, lunches at the Ivy, theatre trips, Christmas do’s and many other celebrations. There are so many memories, some of which I talked about in my previous blogs,  but here are just a couple of my favourites

Sarah wanted to raise money for Breast Cancer Care and talked myself and Sharon into taking part in the moonwalk. This was a 26 mile walk, through London, in the middle of the night, wearing a decorated bra. This was a tough but amazing experience. Sarah encouraged us around the whole 26 miles, never losing her enthusiasm. When we reached the finishing line the following morning, Sarah was the only one out of all three of us that was still able to walk around. It was through this experience on the night and the training before hand that I got to know Sharon and we have been able to support each other and I hope we will continue to do so in the future.

In February this year Sarah and I went on an overnight stay to a spa. We had a lovely relaxing couple of days in some very luxurious surroundings. We were able to spend some quality time together, talked, laughed and cried. As Sarah was feeling quite tired at this stage, we weren’t exactly party animals and ended up tucked up in bed at 9pm, with a bottle of prosecco, watching Love Island.

 

I know that it will be hard over the coming weeks,  months  and years as we will all miss Sarah so much, but I will do my best to remember the good times, to focus on the laughter rather than the tears and to live the best life that I can.

Sleep well Sarah you’ve earned your rest.

I will look for you in the colours of the rainbow, the brightest star and the prettiest snowflakes.

A Fitting Farewell

I’m not sure if it appears strange to write in a blog about a funeral. The last few weeks of my dad’s life were really hard and I thought that the funeral would be too, but although it was a difficult day, I write this feeling very peaceful and calm, honestly believing that my dad is now at rest. Yesterday, the funeral was very sad in many ways, but mostly it was a celebration of his life and a chance for us to share our memories.

Well Made Plans

Although dad was a great storyteller, he was never someone who really discussed personal issues or emotions. I guess he comes from that era of “stiff upper lip”. However, a few days before he died, during the night he sat in the living room with me and my mum and told us what he wanted us to do when he died. This made planning dad’s funeral a much easier process.

He said that he didn’t want a massive fuss, he didn’t want a fancy coffin or to spend a fortune on flowers. He wanted to be cremated.  He chose the music that he wanted, said that he wanted to go to church, but most importantly of all, he wanted us to be together as a family and he wanted to go on a bus.

Dad was a massive fan of buses and trams throughout his life, so it was inevitable that this would appear somewhere in his final wishes. We discussed as a family that it would probably mean hiring a bus and travelling together as a family to scatter dad’s ashes. However when we began to discuss this with the funeral director, it became apparent that in the world of funerals, almost nothing is impossible.

Special Messages Or Coincidences

Yesterday dawned, clear, bright and sunny. It reminded me of days when we would be complaining that it was cold and dad would say “It will be too hot to walk about by dinner time”. I was awake early and was watching the news. There was an interview with Michael Caine and during it they showed a clip of the film “Zulu”. This was my dad’s favourite film ever! At that moment in time I felt that dad really was watching over us and that all would be well.

Just What He Wanted

All the family met at my mum’s house. We were all quite anxious. Me and my brothers had all chosen to be involved in the service. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who doubted that I would actually be able to hold it together at the time.

Dad’s hearse then arrived. This was a vintage red London bus. It was really emotional to see my dad’s coffin inside initially, but then we knew that it was the right thing. He would have loved travelling on the bus and it also meant that as a family we were all able to go to the funeral together.

When we arrived at the church it was moving to see how many people were there. The first hymn was “The day thou gavest Lord is ended”. My older brother, sang the first verse as a solo. A very brave thing to do, which he managed with hardly a wobble in his voice. I manged to read a poem ” Remember me”, by Anthony Dowson. I had a few wobbles, but managed to get through it with a few pauses for deep breaths. My youngest brother then read a eulogy, which contained some lovely memories of dad. Again he held it together throughout.

We then had the hymn “I vow to thee my country”. We picked this as dad had been a rugby fan and liked a rousing patriotic hymn.

Afterwards we had a slideshow of photographs which were accompanied by Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez. Dad asked for this music as he loved the film “Brassed Off” and this particular part, where the piece of music is referred to by the band as “Orang Juice”. The photos were very moving, but there were also some really happy memories of dad and of us together as a family.

At the end of the service we left the church to  “Land of Hope and Glory” Dad had asked for this music, which we were we going to sing as a hymn, but we realised when making the plans that it is not actually a hymn and that other than the chorus from last night of the proms, no one actually knew any more of it.

After church we went to the crematorium, which was the hardest part of the day. Mum had chosen two songs from my dad’s favourite singer, Doris Day. On arrival we had “Que sera sera” and on leaving we had “I will always love you”. It was difficult leaving the crematorium, knowing that we had finally said goodbye to dad.

 

 

 

 

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Getting Together

We then went on our final bus journey to the local Golf Club, to celebrate dad’s life and share memories of him. It was lovely to chat about the good times we have shared as a family and as friends, what we will do in the future and to know that we had done the best that we could do to give him a good send off.

Families can be funny things and our family is no different. There are always people that you are closer to and those that are not so close. There are celebrations, disputes, disagreements, laughter and tears. There are those that you get on with really well and those who you have little in common with. There are friends who support you through the hardest times who become as close as family. There are those friends that you don’t see for ages, but are there when it counts. Yesterday,  we all worked together as a team and made it a day to remember, just as my dad wanted.

A Few Thank You’s

In ending this I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has sent good wishes, cards and flowers to me and my family. For those who have helped to support us over the last few weeks in every way. For those who have put up with the varied emotions that I have gone through, particularly my husband and children who have had to live with me.

In particular I would also like to thank

The nurses and carers that looked after my dad in his last days

Andrew Box and everyone at the funeral directors, Eric F Box, who did everything possible to grant my dads, last wishes, making the planning less painful and helping the day go smoothly and of course, finding “the bus”

Father Martin Naylor and Tineke Bentley and those at Batley Parish Church for the warm welcome, prayers, eulogy and commendation

Hanging Heaton Golf Club, for the food, drinks and lovely surroundings

And lastly to my mum, who is an amazingly strong lady, who has lived through so much and faced it with strength and dignity, an example to us all.

 
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Everything Happens for a Reason

So today the tickets arrived for my eldest daughter’s graduation. I am so excited. I can’t believe it’s finally here. I also can’t believe how quickly the last three years have gone by.

I remember going to all the auditions with her and her not being offered a place anywhere. I was heartbroken, but she handled it much better than me. She believed that something would come along that would be right for her and would come at the right time.

Her favourite saying has always been “Everything happens for a reason”. I have always told her that this is true, but she has been much more faithful to this than I have ever been. I try to think that things happen that are meant to and that in the future we will find out the reason why. Sometimes this is not so easy.

It’s hard to understand the reason why someone dies or falls ill, especially when they are very young. It’s hard to understand why there can be terrorist attacks or big disasters like the Grenfell Tower.

I have worked for many years with the most vulnerable people in our society who have been treated horrendously by those who should care for them the most. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve asked myself how people can be so cruel and if everything happens for a reason, what on earth could be the reason behind this type of behaviour.

I wish I could say that I was going to give you the answer, but I can’t. I only know that it has helped my daughter through some difficult situations over the years. She did get offered a place at university, not the one that she had originally thought of going to, but the one that when she’d visited she really liked instantly. There were others that were more popular or more high profile, but she knew what she was comfortable with and where she would fit in. She’s had a superb three years, met some great people, had some great experiences and come out with a first in her degree. Maybe that was the reason she got turned down for the others.

It’s certainly helped her over the last few months of auditions, where she accepts rejection as part of her development and chance to practice her skills.

When I discussed with people at work about whether “Everything happens for a reason”, some were very sceptical, saying that things just happen by chance and that there is no big master plan.

What do you think??

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Together

Blimey my blog is late again. I’m not quite sure what’s happening. My weekends seem to be so packed that I don’t seem to get round to writing on a Sunday evening.

Community Spirit

This weekend was a really important one for the community of Batley, where I have lived all my life. It was also a really important weekend for communities all over the country.  This was the weekend of the Great Get Together, where people of all different backgrounds joined together to celebrate their diversity and to recognise the things that we have in common. I loved reading the updates about the various events that were taking place and the heart warming photographs of people from all walks of life coming together.

A friend of mine wrote a really good blog about this, which I would recommend if you want to know what it was all about

https://grimois.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/why-my-great-get-together-weekend-wont-be-soured-by-events-in-finsbury-park/

As part of the “More in Common” weekend, I attended an open air service at All Saints Church, Batley with my mum and my eldest daughter. I haven’t attended church much recently, as I have felt unsure where I fit in and just exactly how I feel about my faith. However the service on Sunday was relaxed and informal. The hymns were modern and upbeat and the sun was shining. It made me really think about the fact that  whether you had the same faith as others, or any faith at all, doesn’t really matter. What is important is that we treat others with respect, kindness and as we would like to be treated.

Family Gathering

As Sunday was Father’s Day, we had a family barbeque. The sun was still shining and it was great for us to get together and have chance just to sit and chat and have some food and drinks. My mother in law and father in law couldn’t come as my mother in law has just had an operation on her knee and had just come out of hospital.

After we had eaten for some reason the women were sat inside and we began chatting about faith, beliefs, learning about different cultures and tolerance. It was really interesting to hear other peoples views and to understand that although we may not always agree with others, sometimes it is good to air your views and let other people know how you feel.

Tomorrow my eldest daughter returns to London, to start looking for work and a new house, so I wish her luck with that. It’s been wonderful to have her home, but my bank account and my healthy eating have suffered whilst she’s been at home. I’m not sure which one of us is the bad influence.

 

Damage Limitation

After eating my body weight in cake and ice cream over the last couple of weeks, I dragged myself back to slimming world tonight and unsurprisingly I had put weight on. It’s now four weeks to my eldest daughter’s graduation and youngest daughter’s 18th Birthday party, so I have had to give myself a stern talking to and get myself back on track. I have made myself a healthy breakfast and lunch to take to work tomorrow. I realise how much money I’ve spent buying unhealthy food over the last few weeks, so not only will it be better for my health, but also for my bank balance.

I won’t dwell on it, its done now, so I’ll draw a line under it and start again tomorrow morning with a clean slate. I’ve also booked myself in with run together tomorrow to make sure I get my exercise back on track too.