I apologise for the subject matter I am about to cover in this article. I was fully intending to write it next month but after recent events it feels only right I do this now. Sorry for any upset caused by what is said!
Unfortunately on Saturday night I was told my grandfather had passed away in his sleep. He was 90 years young. Despite heart disease and asbestos related lung cancer he was expected to live for a few more years at least so this was a tad on the sudden side for my liking. I feel it was made harder by the fact we lost my grandmother (his wife) literally two years before, almost to the date. She, too, passed away on X Factor finale weekend. The family all felt that he would go soon after his ‘Annie’ because he loved her so very much that he could not bear to be apart from her, I do not know if she knew who he was at the end but there was so much love. I would love to find someone like that, someone who could not bear to be without me. I did not take the news at all well, several friends have had news of loved ones being unwell or passing away. We are nearly at Christmas and I recall saying to someone ‘What is it with people at the moment?’
Obviously the passing of my grandfather is still very raw but as I had intended to write, on the anniversary, about the loss of my Aunt I have brought this forward.
In the late 1990s my Aunty J found a lump in her breasts, in her mid 40s she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lost her breasts and lymph nodes but still required chemotherapy etc. She delayed getting her lump checked out because she was fearful of what the news would be but after some ‘bullying’ by family she did, her worst fears were true. She had 3 children, a husband and 2 wonderful grandkids.
She had aggressive chemotherapy, her hair fell out and she would joke she was balder than my father. Eventually the chemotherapy stopped and we all believed she had made it through. Her hair grew back into a beautiful and curly mop. Aunty J was a beautiful person inside and out.
At the end of 2001 she was readmitted to hospital with what was thought to be a chest infection or pneumonia. Upon further tests it transpired she had secondary lung cancer. The cancer had spread, this time it was terminal. She was not even 50 yet. She lost a lot of weight and ended up borrowing her sister’s clothes, a size 6. Her humour was such that she said how dying meant she lost the weight and that her coffin would be lighter, she was a nurse by trade so as many people will know nurses have a weird sense of humour.
Late January 2002 on a cold dark morning at around 530am I woke up suddenly. My alarm was not due to go off for another 45 minutes. It was then I saw 20 missed calls from my Mum. Aunty J had gone peacefully. She must have known that today was the day because she had a supper of fish in parsley sauce, mashed potato and beans – her favourite meal from childhood. I worked at MoD and did not feel like working but knew it was what J would have wanted. I lasted all of an hour, my Warrant Officer sent me home via the Spar to get myself a small tot of brandy to calm down.
I had apparently just sat at my desk staring at an empty computer screen and the phone would ring but I would not answer it. Nobody knew until my WO had called my Dad what had happened. All I can say is now I know why my WO earnt his stripes, he was a truly amazing man whose support was invaluable. I was granted 2 days compassionate leave and was allowed 3 days compassionate around the funeral. I think I went out and got drunk for 3 nights running that week.
My Aunt was survived by both her parents (Gran was in early stages of Alzheimer’s when J died); 3 sisters (one of them my mum) and 2 brothers; her husband of over 20 years; 9 nieces and nephews; 3 children and 2 grandchildren under the age of 5. Her loss sent shock waves throughout the family.
Aunty J was like a second mother to me throughout my life. She was a loving and caring lady who had worked incredibly hard as a nurse. She had a thick skin due to being a nurse that worked the scene at the Kings Cross underground fire and various traumas in the 80s. Her New Years Eve parties were the stuff of legends. If the four sisters got together it was like a coven of witches, their laughter was enough to make anyone either pee their pants or laugh hysterically with them. They were a close-knit, and still are, group of siblings who have yet again experienced loss. J was the life and soul of the party.
I think of J everyday. I know she is with me because of the way some things happen for me in life, well the good things that is. A good thing that has come out of the death is that I am breast aware, I check my breasts frequently. Breast Cancer, if found quickly, can be treated effectively. Do not allow yourself to become a statistic.
Life is precious. It is a gift that you should look after to the best of your ability. You will have ups and downs. Live life to the full because you never know what is around the corner.