The best friend I never had

I have never thought of myself as being like my mother but as I grow older I find we are more and more alike. One respect in which we are similar is in the good friends we choose as we go through life to the extent that my mum’s best friend, Margaret, is referred to as “my other mummy”.

Another of these friends is Beverley who my parents met when they were living in South Africa in the late Seventies. A talkative, outgoing woman, I have never had the same closeness with her that I have with Margaret, purely as in the years where I would have been old enough to appreciate her friendship, she and her family have been living in Australia. That has been something I have loved as I have wanted to plan a trip over there for ages and the fact that I would have somewhere to stay in Sydney would have made it all so much easier but due to one thing and another I have never got round to making that trip. There has always been a good excuse: time, work, money, exams… But now none of that is important.

Beverley died, nearly two weeks ago, from what started out as ovarian cancer. She was in the UK two years ago to celebrate her 60th birthday having already had surgery and chemotherapy and having been declared as in remission and during that trip, she zoomed about, seeing everyone and everything. She later said she had had a feeling during that trip that the cancer was back and wanted to say her goodbyes.

Her funeral isn’t for a couple of weeks and none of us will be able to make it. If it wasn’t 10,000 miles away but in her native Leeds then we would all be there but Sydney is a little far. I can see Beverley rolling her eyes at any of us even contemplating the trip. There is an instruction that people are to wear bright clothes for the funeral and anyone wearing black should expect a ghostly clip around the ear!

I can’t explain in a post what Beverley was to me, even though as I say I was not as close to her as I would have wished. She was a gardener in a place with no water (literally, Australia is pretty much a big desert!), she has two extraordinary children, one who works in fashion and one musician (his band supported the Darkness), could talk for the UK, Australia and south Africa combined without stopping to draw breath and one of the kindest people I have ever had the luxury of meeting.

As I have mentioned before, I have suffered from depression and at my worst had a year off work. during that year Beverley called one day to speak to my parents and we spent nearly an hour on the phone. It turned out she had suffered from severe post-natal depression after the birth of her second child and ended up spending several weeks in hospital. She was the first person I had spoken to who I could actually relate to and who I believed when she said it would get better. In the darkest time of my life, this woman who I barely knew, this friend of my parents, on the other side of the planet, became a beacon of hope that one day I would not only survive but be happy.

And that is why the news of her death has been so hard to deal with. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need that beacon but if the walls start to close in again and darkness starts to fall, it will be very difficult knowing that light has been extinguished.

Average Josephine x

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