I answered my mobile phone two mornings ago, seeing it was Moira , and gaily answered saying “Hello Moira”. “This is Donald “, came the reply, and immediately I knew this was not good. Donald is her husband. He proceeded to tell me how she had had a massive heart attack the previous evening and although he had carried out CPR as well as then the emergency services, she had not responded.
Moira is my past. At the age of five we met on our first day at school and emerged at the end of that first day out of the school doors holding hands. We remained best friends until we were about fifteen, when I became entranced by philosophical discussion and Moira obviously found such conversation “mere frippery” (my words). She was a down to earth character who pursed her lips at fanciful notions ; I was to appreciate these stoical characteristics only quite a bit later in my life.
Still friends though, we celebrated the end of school by going off with another friend, Carolyn, to spend a week in Glen Esk staying in the basic “luxury” of the Scout hut almost in the middle of nowhere. This was our first time away from home and we loved it. We smoked cigarettes ( how thrilling), drank wine ( a minuscule amount), washed our hair in the river and cooked over an open fire. We were in heaven.
She remained in our home town , married and had children. She also worked as a primary school teacher and became quite a leading light in the amateur operetta group; she had a lovely singing voice. Also , as I remember from these early years of “mental arithmetic” tests held at the start of the day each day in primary school, she was good at maths .This expressed itself later in her love for , and great acumen in, the playing of Bridge.
I, on the other hand, was the polar opposite. I couldn’t wait to leave the home town and spread my wings, finally living in London for twenty three years. I couldn’t think of anything more boring than settling down and having children in my twenties.I was living in the fast lane, and I loved it. I found London fascinating and loved those early days of the Blitz Club, the Embassy Club , meeting people from all walks of life , exchanging ideas.I studied afresh and entered a new(ish) profession called psychotherapy. I married and had a daughter, whilst continuing my work. I had entered a world that was cosmopolitan , where I travelled worldwide and enjoyed everything that London had to offer ; theatre, opera, fashion and congenial society.
Being married to a half Scot, we started to visit Scotland more and more and I re-met with Moira. We now had motherhood in common. In a way, we picked up where we had left off all those years ago. Close childhood friends are like family; they feel like part of you. As I met with Moira from time to time on these visits, I came to see how our very different lifestyles had not made such a difference. She had learned her life lessons in her way, as I had learned them in mine. We had chosen different ways, but they were equally viable. I ended by feeling at a very parallel place to my old friend.
How extraordinary that we should have met on that first day at school, taken such apparently different paths in life and yet have reconnected so strongly.
In her final two years Moira contracted a very strange spinal problem which meant that she would stand up like a swan, with her head dipped, and then lean her back backwards in order to view you . I was so moved by her plight (of which she had told me nothing until I went to visit her) that I gave her some healings. They didn’t change her condition but she said she always felt better after them. She also mentioned very matter of factly that she had had a pacemaker installed for a heart problem. Meantime she continued to play bridge, do some work, and give as much support as she could to her family; now grown up and married with young children.
As I write this, I am in tears. It is only when a person dies that you truly appreciate their qualities. In other words, what can I learn from this person’s passing? What can I appreciate from this life lived?
I have learned that stoicism is a quality in no way to be belittled.
How wonderful it is that somehow human beings can touch each other in a way that is so deep and so transformative. You don’t know from whence such a person or an experience will come, but come it will…as long as you are open.