I wrote this poem almost exactly a year ago for my friend Antoinette, who I met because we both had cancer. Her cancer was terminal at diagnosis, but she was full of life, and love and grace, and lived each day intent on making the most of every moment. I was nervous about showing Annie the poem, because she was the sort of friend who wouldn’t bullshit you, but she loved it, she said it made her laugh and cry and feel all the things in between.
From the day we met we had many conversations about many things, from the mundane to the most exquisitely painful. We talked about her children’s life without her, which always brought her to her knees, but despite her grief she made many, many plans to help ease their way through the world once she was gone. She never took herself too seriously, no matter the gravity of the situation, and I laughed so hard when she told me that she had met with the funeral director, and that he was a nice bloke but she felt a bit awkward knowing that one day he would see her naked.
Annie died yesterday. When I found out I came to the blog to find the post with the poem, because it gave me a sense of connection to her, but it was gone. I never delete posts, but somehow that particularly precious one got lost in the black hole of cyberspace, and I was devastated. I tried many times during the day to find it, searching WordPress and the Internet and email send items and eventually my entire computer, all to no avail. My inability to find the post fuelled my anger and grief about her loss, but late last night, at the end of a very long day, through Facebook Messenger comes a copy of my post! Our mutual friend Jo, quite possibly the most fucking determined individual I have ever met, did some magic Internet jiggery-pokery and got me a copy of the post, which means I can republish the poem today.
There is a Light
We met in an airport, not like the plot of a romantic movie kind of way, because in movies people with cancer don’t meet in airports,
they lie in tragic beds looking tragic.
Tragedy, it’s hard to bear.
Like a Bee Gees song.
We shared a twin room, my breathing reminded you of one of your kids.
What about my farting? No mention of that …
The courage in you, steely, outrageously so, but then
the vulnerability. Oh that beautiful girl.
There is a light –
I’ll always see it, because it was so glaringly bright.
I didn’t need to look for long.
Now I can see it even when my eyes are closed,
And I’m in another city, hours away,
I’ll carry a little bit of you, a tiny bit.
In my eyes.
I’ll look at things, maybe something funny or a news story
about a stick-up, and my eyes will see it with that little bit of your light
glinting in the corner.
I have no idea why things happen as they do, I think
maybe one day, on the flip side, you will know and I can only
hope that it’s a really fucking good reason.
Because right now, nothing springs to mind.
Antoinette was an incredibly private person, who made the difficult choice of publicising her story so that others might not suffer the same fate as her. Please read her story here, and share it widely with your friends and family.
Annie, it was an honour and a privilege.