Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Most Devastating News

I have just received an email from the wife of my best friend. Mr Smiley and I have known each other for nearly 40 years. We met when I was a very shy and nervous 18-year old. I can even clearly remember his first words to me, "What do you want?" That remark has been a source of amusement to us both in the intervening years as our paths have met and diverged again.

Mr Smiley was in the Army and I was in the RAF in those days and it was because we both worked in a particular field that we met for the first time, and led to us meeting and working together at various periods since then. But since 1997 we worked together almost continuously until I was retired on medical grounds.

When my husband died, Mr Smiley was the person who helped get me through those first agonising months. He was the person that I turned to when I needed to talk and he was the person who made others at work realise how difficult it was for me to continue working in a place where my husband had worked too. By then I had left the RAF and become a civil servant, but Mr Smiley was still in the Army. A few years later he retired from the Army and became a civil servant too and we continued to work, and talk, together daily until I gave up work.

It was Mr Smiley who took the phone call from my Dad the day that Mum died and who took it upon himself to give the news. That is another day that I will never forget. He had given bad news like this before when a serving Army officer, but when we talked about it some time later, he told me that giving me the bad news was probably the most difficult thing that he had ever had to do.

Mr Smiley helped me through that bereavement as he had helped me after my husband died. He did it again when Dad died. It was shortly after this that I moved back to London and was medically retired. Since then we have kept in regular contact through emails, phone calls, and meeting up occasionally for lunch.

Mrs Smiley's email this morning told me that Mr Smiley has terminal cancer, and that he is seriously ill in hospital. I knew that Mr Smiley was not well, and that he would be going for some tests in the new year. But last weekend he was taken into hospital and they operated on Monday, but there was nothing that could be done. The doctors had hoped that he would be well enough to come home by today, but having just spoken to Mrs Smiley on the phone, it seems that he is not recovering from the operation as well as they had hoped, and now she is wondering if he will ever be well enough to come home.

Yesterday was the anniversary of my Dad dying. To have had this news today, coupled with how I am feeling anyway in this run up to Christmas, means that I am sitting here writing this post with tears freely flowing.

When I told Mr Smiley about having started this blog, he became a regular reader and commenter on it. He thought it was one of the best things that I could have done and that it would be a very cathartic exercise. He felt that the things that I wrote about depression and how I coped with it would benefit others, and he had been reading Tackling the Mental Health Minefield when I started writing these posts.

We last spoke on the phone a couple of weeks ago, and his last email was written on Friday 11th December and finished with the words, "I hope you have a relaxing weekend and achieve what you want to achieve, How are you coping with being at home? Talk again on Monday." Of course, we didn't.

I just have to hope that we can write a few more emails to each other, but in the meantime I am going to have to try to pull myself together enough to be able to write a letter to Mr Smiley telling him how much I have valued his friendship and how much he has done for me over the years. It's not going to be easy.


Anonymous said...

What an awful thing to have happened. I'm so sorry for both you and dear Mr.Smiley.
I really hope you can get through the coming weeks without any further crises. News like that is enough to tip anyone over the edge.
Wishing you both all the very best.

steph said...

Oh, dear!

I'm so sorry you've had to deal with this sad news and especially at a time which is already difficult for you. Poor Mr Smiley.

I hope that by sharing this news on the blog, it will have helped you in some way to come to terms with this new sense of loss. I think Mr Smiley would have wanted that too.

Take care.

cb said...

I don't really think there's anything to add expect you and Mr Smiley and his family are in my thoughts.

alhi said...

I'm really sorry to hear that. I know from reading your blog how much you enjoyed meeting up with Mr Smiley and how much those meetings lifted your spirits.
I hope you manage to write that letter: it will be cathartic for you, but Mr Smiley knows how much he meant to you without having to read it.

Take care,


Heather said...

I have only just found your blog, and I feel so very sad for you that you have had this latest blow, when you seemed to be otherwise on an upward trend.
I am thinking of you. I have been admitted to hospital too, and so much of what you have written resonated strongly, so I do think I have some inkling of what has happened in your recent past at least, and how awful the current situation must feel. I don't know if it does help, to know that other people are willing you on to find the strength to deal with things - but I am willing you on!

BenefitScroungingScum said...

I'm so very sorry to hear of this extra blow at such a difficult time. Thinking of you, love BG Xx

Achelois said...

I couldn't comment initially when I first read this post. I couldn't find the words. Others above have said everything I would have wished to say had I been able.

I do just want to say - although I am worried it sounds somewhat trite - thats not the intention. Mr Smiley would want you to remember the laughs, the friendship and for you to hold on tight to your dreams.

You have been so brave of late and I hope that by posting what feels somewhat inadequate words goes someway to help you keep on fighting.

I hope you and Mrs Smiley can help each other.

In the meantime my thoughts are very much with you. Willing you on, each and every day. Take good care of you. Remember this, because you share your thoughts here you are helping others to think about sharing theirs. Thank you.