It’s been a big few weeks for us but before we get into all that I have a story of a different kind to tell you.
My friend died. She had breast cancer. We thought she was in remission after a gruelling year of chemo, a double mastectomy and radiation, but cancer had other ideas and it metastasised. By the time the doctors realised, her time on this earth was only a few weeks. Clare has left behind a husband, two small children and a devastated tribe of family and friends.
We were pregnant at the same time with both our boys and our girls, Lyla and Izzy were born 3 weeks apart. We lived 10 minutes away from each other, we shared many weekends away with far too much alcohol, started an online business together when we were pregnant with our first kids and sold it when we were pregnant with our second. It was a wild ride with many great bits and more than a few shit bits but we did it together and our friendship grew stronger through the challenges of running a business together. She was such a funny, strong willed, vibrant and honest person with an appetite for life that was only beaten by her appetite for food. Her ability to devour the largest of steaks was legendary, I swear the term, ‘hangry’, was developed by someone who met Clare for the first time just before she had lunch!
Before we left Australia Clare celebrated turning 40 with a great big chilled out party in her huge back garden in the country. There were hay bales and a bbq, musicians and so many friends and family just hanging out celebrating Clare. She radiated joy and gratitude and she never looked more beautiful or alive. Only a few short months later when she was told that her cancer had returned and that it was untreatable she declared that she had had the best summer ever, so typical of Clare to find something to be grateful for in the face of such frightening news.
Clare’s funeral was in Australia so I wasn’t able to attend which meant i didn’t feel like I had a chance to say goodbye but I sat quietly in Belfast at 4am watching the sun come up with a coffee while thinking about her beautiful farewell taking place in Country Victoria. Her lovely husband, Marc sent me an audio recording of the funeral but I haven’t been able to bring myself to listen to it yet. I think I’ll know when the time is right. However Clare found her own way of saying goodbye to us in music therapy. Music was Clare’s religion and when she was recovering from treatment she discovered tibetan singing bowls. While there is always a great selection of instruments for Lyla to choose from at music therapy there has never been a singing bowl, that is until the session after Clare’s funeral. Lyla chose the singing bowl last and we each played it and I cried. I cried because I knew Clare had put that bowl there and that she was saying goodbye.
While life has carried on with a trip to Ireland with Lyla for Feldenkrais, an intensive block of therapy trialling eye gaze, a trip to London to meet some fab bloggers, not to mention moving into our new house; it has been hard to think about sitting down to write anything. I felt I couldn’t write about our family until I had shared the story of our loss. It has been a constant presence, like a kind of writer’s block, demanding to be written. I’ve been lucky enough to not have any of my friends die before Clare so this has meant that I’ve had to navigate my way through grief and loss for the first time. The shock of it still takes my breath away when I least expect it.
Clare was a wonderful mother and wife, daughter and sister, an extremely talented musician and a great friend. She journeyed through cancer with strength and grace and she has left an incredible legacy of music, stories and friendships for her children.
I will miss you every day Clare.