Death is Overrated

I’ve not seen A for a while. I’m trying to remember the last time, and if the conversation I recall having some time ago was face to face or over the ‘phone.

But late last night I got a text from Nicola telling me A is in hospital and giving me the directions should I wish to see her. Nic said A had been very unwell, so I sent off another text saying I’d like to come and visit and when would suit.

Further texts from Nic made me realise the extent of very unwell. Dying. Cancer, though what type I do not know. Maybe that does not matter.

No reply from A to my text, but today a flurry of exchanged messages with Nic who had been to see her and found it hard. Near the end was a phrase she used in one of these messages. I brought forward my plans from Wednesday to tomorrow.

She has good and bad days, explained Nic. Apparently today was a bad day.

Tonight my ‘phone rang. A’s name flashed up. Hello A, I said. A man’s voice answered, slightly embarrassed. A friend. He passed the ‘phone to A and she spoke to me. Her voice was flat, devoid of expression. Maybe she is drugged? This woman who was always so full of life. Bright eyed and bushy tailed might have been coined to describe her. A’s delight in the world, her strong voice, resounding tones, the way she would greet you at work in the morning as you rushed from photocopier to pigeon hole, gathering and dispensing information with, Isobel! I’ve written a poem. Here, you must read it!

Her poetry won prizes, but she didn’t stop with the written word. She developed a passion for photography, and won prizes for that too. I have a folder of her poems, and a framed print of one of her pictures in my flat. She was enthusiastic, forthright, warm and encouraging.

If you like King’s Place in London, A is one of the people you need to thank. She campaigned relentlessly to save historic parts of the district and to make sure there was an artistic, community hub at the end of the regeneration.

I don’t know how old she is. She always said that she would not tell people her age because when you do, you are defined by it.

I can’t say I am looking forward to tomorrow’s visit. I want to see A, but this might be the last time, and I had hoped for more conversations, more time in her company.

It shouldn’t be like this.



25 thoughts on “Death is Overrated

  1. I can’t click the like button but this is an important post. Going to see her, be near, is the most important gift you can give. How fortunate you have her voice in poems. She will be so glad you made the difficult effort to be with her near the end.

    • Thanks Ruth. She is aware she has visitors. But she does not really know who is there. She looks exhausted. They talk about death being a release. In this case, I think that is true.

    • Hard when it came to leave as I was conscious that it is extremely unlikely I shall ever see her again. She is going home tomorrow to die with her family around her.

    • I am glad I went, though the person I shall remember is not the one I saw lying frail and ill this afternoon. Her voice was the same, and her eyes were still bright, but the cancer has reached her brain, so although she claimed to know who I was, I rather doubt that she did.

  2. Being the contrarian again, but I think this a gift A is giving you. Seems to me that Death is not about the dying; they know they will be going. It is about the living who must carry on without that presence in their lives. To give you a moment to solidify your connection (and not her physical condition) is precious. Other friends, acquaintances co-workers will learn of her passing via emails or obits.

    Perhaps there is also a challenge to you, who knew her poetry and photography, to remember her after she is gone.

    Let me just make that load heavier.

    But now I want to go to something at KIng’s Place. There is a legacy and that is good.

    • I am with her now but she has gone to sleep. She said she was tired and I asked if I should go, but she said to stay a while in case she woke. But she looks flat out, so I shall quietly put my coat and my wet shoes on again, and leave in a few minutes.

  3. Very difficult and poignant, Isobel. Thinking of you and sending hugs. Just be with her and give her strength and comfort by your presence.

    • I think I was lucky that no one else was there during my visit, so I was able to sit quietly beside her, and when she woke up, help her to have some water and ask the nurse about painkillers. I asked if it was alright to talk, and she said yes, and we exchanged a few sentences then she looked so tired again, but told me to stay as she might wake up. When I left, she was sound asleep.

  4. I love Kings Place so are one of those who shall always be grateful to your friend. Although I don’t get there often enough. Shall look forward to reading her poems and seeing the print next time I’m at your place. Stay strong xx


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