This is a book blog but I have never been shy of involving you in all sorts of other matters in my life, some funny, some sad and today I want to share my memories of my friend Sue whose funeral I attended yesterday. I certainly did not imagine when she called me recently to moan about her eyesight and how useless her opticians were and I joked 'Should have gone to Specsavers' that this was the beginning of a devastating illness which would take her from us in barely six weeks, but so it was.
Sue and I were friends for over 25 years. I remember so well the day we met. I was working for a firm of chartered accountants in Colchester and a new partner had joined us and a new secretary was needed – Sue was appointed and would be sitting in the desk next to me.
She arrived and we were introduced and I took one look at this very elegant, beautifully dressed and very SLIM woman and thought to myself ‘Mmm not going to like you!” When I told her of this some years later she laughed and told me in return that when she had met me she had found me rather formidable and a bit scary..... We became very good friends and became even closer some years later when both our marriages came to an end within a few months of each other. Sue was alone in her house, feeling lonely and unhappy and I needed a place to stay while I got myself sorted out, so I moved in with her and spent that summer supporting each other and keeping both of us going.
I was commuting to London at this time and up at 6am in the morning. I would come out of the shower and find that Sue had made a pot of coffee for herself and a pot of tea for me and we would sit outside in the garden quietly drinking it. We very rarely spoke, just sat in silence but it set me up for the day. When I came home in the evening, tired after work and the train journey, my supper was waiting for me. It was rather like having a wife and it was, well, nice.
By the end of the year our situations had begun to sort themselves out and we both moved into new homes. The friendship continued, as always. It was during the next few years that my admiration for Sue increased. I had always admired Sue for the way she coped with lupus, a chronic illness, which caused her constant pain. Sometimes she could not walk as it was too painful. Other times her hands were twisted and knotted and she would cry they hurt so much, but she soldiered on and most of the time those who met her did not know she was in any discomfort at all as she made light of it. In the aftermath of her marriage breakdown she was unhappy, often lonely and she had troubles which upset her deeply. She had relationships which did not work out, but though she was hurt on many occasions, she got up and carried on. 'What else is there to do Elaine? Give up?' I had my ups and downs as well and many a night was passed with us knocking back a bottle or two of red and generally commiserating with ourselves over our problems and our terrible taste in men....
Sue was delighted when her daughter Mary Lou became engaged to Graham and later rejoiced in their marriage. The best was yet to come - she became a grandmother when Henry was born. I remember her calling me when she had been told a baby was on the way, but under strict instructions not to tell anybody as it was early days. 'Elaine I HAVE to tell you'. A few months later I learned my darling Helen was expecting a baby - 'Mum you are not to tell anybody, it's early days'. 'Of course darling' says I. No prizes for guessing who I telephoned as soon as I could!
She was also the first person I called when I heard the news of the arrival of my darling Florence. I was ricocheting off the walls with joy and happiness and we both shrieked and cried down the phone at each other - it was early on a Saturday morning but within half an hour she was on my doorstep with an armful of yellow tulips. More tears, more shrieks.
The last few years of Sue's life were more peaceful and serene. She was the happiest I had known her for a long time and oh how she loved being a grandmother. She and I shared so many hours of grandmotherly chat extolling the virtues of both Henry and Florence. We both acknowledged that our own grandchild was simply perfect, wonderful and a genius and I have a feeling we even hatched a plan that when they grew up they would get married. Yes, I know...
I am sitting here writing this with tears trickling down my face at the thought that this joyous period in Sue's life was so short. It seems so unfair that just when she was entering a phase of her life that was bringing her so much happiness it was brought to an abrupt end.
I visited her in hospital several times and the speed and ferocity of the illness that killed her was frightening to see. I remember one day I visited her with Mary Lou, her daughter, who said ‘Mum Elaine is here’. By this time Sue could not focus or see me properly but as soon as she heard my voice she held out her arms and hugged me tight ‘Oh my precious girl’ she said. Next time I saw her she had slipped into unconsciousness and though I sat and talked to her, I am not sure that she knew I was there.
I understand from a study I read somewhere that most of us have lots of acquaintances but only two or three close friends. I have been lucky in my life to have such good friends and Sue was one of them. I spoke at her funeral yesterday as I wanted those attending, and oh my goodness the church was packed, to know how much I appreciated her. Looking back I cannot recall that we ever had a serious falling out - the odd mini-spat maybe, we are both strong characters, but never anything that affected our friendship.
Good friends are a vital and nourishing part of our lives. We have our families, though there can be times when familial relationships can be fraught or take a blip now and then, but a good friend is always there in times of trouble and times of happiness. I have cried all over Sue, she has sat on my sofa and wept on several occasions, we have also knocked back a drink or two and had a laugh and a joke and we have both shared our moments of happiness and joy, as we have done over the last three years when we became grandmothers.
She was a loyal, true, faithful and loving friend and I am going to miss her quite dreadfully. I will never forget that last hug and her words 'Oh my precious girl'. They will stay with me always. Not ashamed to say I am crying as I write this and I hope that all Random Readers will understand and remember their good friends today.
As a footnote I am posting a link http://www.justgiving.com/susanjanepotter to a page set up on Facebook by a friend of the family. It is in support of the CJD network who research into the disease that struck Sue down. There is no pressure and no obligation on any Random visitor to donate but if you feel you can, then of course you have my grateful thanks.