Yesterday… the day before today… Tuesday 19 January 2016. It seems like a lifetime ago, except that it was only yesterday.
At around 14.30 my Sister’s name lit up my mobile phone screen. We were due to meet up that evening at Chester Racecourse, at a party to celebrate our wonderful friend Helen, who last year received the devastating news that at 38 years old she had terminal breast cancer. It was to be her ‘final fling’; a chance to bring together family and friends for one final momentous knees up, and in true Helen style, everything was planned meticulously. So I thought nothing of my sister calling (even though she rarely calls me at work)… She was obviously calling to finalise arrangements for that evening.
Sadly I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I’m heartbroken to have to convey the tragic news that she was actually phoning to tell me of Helen’s passing. In a cruel twist, our friend was taken just hours before being able to attend her own party. Beautiful, courageous and inspiring Helen was gone…
But not one to rest on her laurels, Helen had thought of everything, including the possibility that she might not be around… Hence, she’d instructed her husband to make sure that the party still went ahead, even if it was without her! It seemed incredibly surreal to get ready – black tie and cocktail dresses – to go to a celebration so soon after being given such desperately sad news, but it was Helen’s wish, and that simply couldn’t be ignored! She had promised an evening of ‘fun, laughter and entertainment’ and that’s exactly what we determined we were going to have.
Victor Hugo stated that “Laughter is the sun that drives Winter from the human face” and on this occasion, he couldn’t have been more right! Yes, there was an outpouring of grief – tears by the bucket load in fact – at the loss of a truly wonderful woman, but there also existed a very real feeling of comfort and togetherness. Laughter bounced off the walls of the Long Room as guests exchanged stories and fond memories of Helen, and smiles and bonds were created that made everyone feel just a little bit better about life in that moment.
I left the party feeling calm – serene even – and made myself a promise to let out a good guffaw on a daily basis; even when circumstances dictate that I don’t really feel like it! Yes there will be (and are) times when life seems so cruel and unfair, but Helen’s plight has really highlighted for me how important it is to live life to the fullest, to make sure I fill each day with love, happiness and laughter. I hope we managed to achieve this last night for Helen…
Shine bright beautiful lady… like a diamond!