I want to use this opportunity to say goodbye to my friend Sandie Back, who died after a long struggle with cancer.
I wasn’t able to attend her funeral as I was on holiday at the time, so I missed dancing along behind the pink hearse. What a spectacular way to go: exactly as Sandie would have wished it! No doubt her friends and family celebrated her life with joyous abandon at the Cricket Club later.
I was privileged to have seen her only a few weeks before she died. She was in a wheelchair and was looking very thin and wasted, but when I asked how she was her eyes sparkled. “I’m fine,” she said, preferring to ask after my health than to dwell on her own fragile state.
We kissed goodbye, and that was the last time I ever saw her.
I knew her for over 25 years. We were never that close, but our occasional conversations were always studded with affection. She was such an inclusive person. She always made me feel like I was her particular friend.
Sandie was the true heart of Whitstable.
It’s that sparkle in her eye I will remember the most. There was such fierce presence there, such life, it’s almost impossible to imagine that she isn’t still around in some form. Even as her body was being taken away from her, that light in her eyes seemed to blaze with ever greater intensity.
Another friend of mine lost her father recently so I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality.
What I’ve decided is that it is our mortality which defines our love. It is the certainty of loss that gives our relationships their special poignancy. If there are immortal beings in the universe – and I wouldn’t like to say either way – then they would know less than we do, they would be less wise, because they would never know the loss of someone they cared about deeply.
And then I had a strange and wonderful thought. Maybe we are all immortal beings, made mortal in order to learn the secrets of love.
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