Our neighbour from Staverton. P and her husband, D, renovated the Horseblock, the house that we lived in there. Then they moved into the barn at the bottom of our garden. We got to know them well over the seven years that we lived there. I last saw her when we left Staverton at the end of October. My mum and I had coffee with her while the removal men packed up the house. I hugged her, had a little cry and then we headed for H______. We spoke on email a few times. Then, at the beginning of December, D sent an email to say that she was poorly. But there was a lot of norovirus about so maybe it was that. It wasn't. It was much worse. She was diagnosed with cancer in mid December. It was everywhere. They couldn't find the primary source. She was too ill to have chemotherapy. By January she was in a hospice; she should have been in Thailand with D, her sister and brother-in-law. Bravely, she decided to stop taking the medication that was keeping her alive and she died on 7th February, just three days later. I still can't believe it.
I wrote to her before she died. D asked me to read my letter to her at the wonderful funeral that he organised. This is what I said:
Many of you here today have known P for much longer and knew her much better than I did. Our paths crossed relatively recently, when S and I moved into the Horseblock, the house at the end of P and D’s garden, seven years ago. She took us under her wing and we have stayed there ever since.
When someone dies, we tend to say nice things about him or her to other people afterwards, at events like this. The only good thing that I can find to say about P’s fast, furious and cruel illness is that it gave me an opportunity to tell her directly how much I valued her friendship. When I heard that she had very bravely decided to stop taking medication, I wanted to let her know what a lovely, kind and generous person she was and how much she had come to mean to us. I wanted to let her know that I thought she had succeeded in the important things in life.
I wrote her an email and left it to D to decide whether the words that I wrote to her were appropriate or not. I am very glad to say that he chose to read my letter to her. He has asked me to read my words to you today. I am deeply touched by his request but, again, I’m aware that lots of you here could write much more and write much better words than I have found here.
I wanted to tell you how much S and I appreciated your kindness and friendliness when we first arrived at the Horseblock. You made such an effort to invite us to things and to help us to integrate. In fact, more than that, you made us feel that we were part of the community and I am not sure how long that would have taken had we been left to our own devices, given our lifestyles.
Over the years, we have discovered a person with a sharp mind, wide-ranging interests and uncompromising views (said the pot to the kettle!). Conversation is always varied, interesting and fun. Joining the Staverton Book Club and listening to the things that you have to say there has opened my eyes to another side of you, a side that is perceptive, emotionally intelligent and highly analytical. (Is this beginning to sound like a school report?!)
Another aspect of you that I really admire can be summed up by three things: cooking, gardening and interior design! But these are not trivial things. When we walk through that gate into your garden and then enter your house, we always feel that we are entering a special space. It is a huge talent, I think, to be able to create the atmosphere of well-being, relaxation and comfort that I always feel in your home and garden. For me, being able to make people feel like that is a very, very special gift.
So, you came into our lives as a neighbour, became a very dear neighbour who helped us out when needed and you are now a much loved friend who will always have a special place in our hearts.
With much love,
A and S
P's friend, S, read a poem at the funeral. She read it beautifully and I thought it was deeply moving. P had chosen it and asked her to read it to D. I include it here.
I can't be with you today
but if you close your eyes and think;
I'll be beside you in the kitchen
wearing your shirt - standing by the sink.
I'll be with you in the bedroom
waiting quietly on your bed;
Just close your eyes and think of me,
relive those memories in your head.
I'll stand by you in the bathroom,
an unlikely place to meet;
I'll smile at you so playfully
as I let you brush my teeth.
I'll be your light in the darkness,
shining steady through and through;
You only have to watch it glow
to know I think of you.
I'll be the music that you listen to,
I'll be there in every song:
I'll laugh with you and sing with you,
and comfort you when your day's gone wrong.
I'll be the wind that ruffles your hair,
I'll be that warm embrace;
I'll be the hand on your shoulder,
I'll be the tender touch on your face.
I'll be the clock gently ticking,
reminding you of the times;
We've shut the rest of the world outside
we're in our own world - yours and mine.
I'll be the moon as it dances
on the water cold and still;
For I have loved you always
and I know I always will.
Though you may not see me physically
as you live your life today;
Just close your eyes and think of me
I will not be far away.