My best friend of over 40 years has passed away, and, as always with a death, you are forced to think about your own mortality and the meaning of your life and life in general.
We were grade one when I met her. I was the shy airy fairy type, she was the outgoing athletic one and subsequently my protector, being one year older than I. We grew up together, shared the same schools, mischiefs, friends and joys.
In our 20’s she was in a car accident. I specifically remember the last time I saw her before the accident. It was completely random that she crossed a road, as I came driving down that road. She didn’t see me, but that was a week before the accident which left her paralysed from the arms down. A few years later both her legs were also amputated after complications.
In the more than 20 years she spent in her wheelchair and in and out of hospitals, we became even closer friends. We talked about life and love, and she lived vicariously through all of my adventures (yes, I didn’t stay shy and quiet forever ;-). She was always ready with sound advice and, or, sympathy after every break up or heartache I had. I felt her pain as she spoke of the husband and children she would never have, and felt a small amount of guilt because I chose to not have children. It seems so selfish in the presence of someone who wants it and can’t have that life.
She wasn’t always that wise and compassionate though, over the years she gradually changed, and became deeper and more mature. You rarely meet an exceptional person with an easy past. The pain and tribulations we go through moulds and change us, and in her case, for the better. We get so caught up in our daily struggles and chores, that we forget to stand still and look at our lives as a whole to see the greater plan and be objective.
A few months ago I had a long conversation with her, and very uncharacteristically she spoke about her sister and mother who both died of cancer years ago and her own fears about dying. I found it strange that she finally opened up about this, and I just let her talk. Shortly after that, she told me what the last wish on her bucket list was, and we were making plans to make it happen. I could sense that she thinks that her time on earth is limited. The past few years has been very hard on her both physically and mentally, and I could barely handle to see her suffering like that, and could just imagine how hard it must be for her.
When I left for Cape Town, she asked me how long I was going to be away for, something she has never done before. On the plane I was thinking about all of this, and it dawned upon me that I might never see her again. A few days later she was admitted to hospital fighting pneumonia. Her body was just not strong enough to overcome it, and she passed away last night.
As I am now reflecting on her life and reading all the messages people left about her on social media, I am honoured and humbled to have known her. She was kind, strong, empathetic, courageous and a true inspiration to absolutely everyone who met her. A listening ear and good advice with a strong moral compass to everybody who knew her.
In twenty years, I have never ONCE heard her complain about her situation. I once asked her just how she does it, always being so optimistic and bubbly, to which she smilingly replied: “What other choice do I have?” Let that sink in for a second. A profound outlook on life.
My heart is broken, but I am glad for my friend. Her suffering is over and she can finally fly and be free again. Rest in peace, and be assured that your legacy will live on in our hearts.