on life and death

yesterday I was at a funeral.  My lovely Uncle, my last living Uncle, had passed away, suddenly and swiftly, his life was over.  Ninety something years of living, of laughing and loving, all done.  Except it isn’t done at all.  Each one of us in the chapel has memories of him, of times gone by and of shared moments.  It is these memories that keep us alive in the thoughts of others, long after our bodies have given up.

As he arrived to this resting place, he was carried by those who had loved him.  His son, son in law, granddaughter and grandsons, tenderly taking him on his last journey, carrying him safely and with love, just as he had carried each and everyone of them throughout their lives.

I remember the times when there was only two of us, my big cousin and me.  Our annoying little sisters were yet to be born, and the families attentions were all ours.  Our Dads, both now gone, were buddies.  They would come back from working away from home with tales of hilarity and fun.  They never spoke about working in tough conditions or how they lived in boarding houses, while earning money for us at home.  We laughed so much in those days, it all seemed really simple.  There would be family parties, during which our Dads would fool around and sing along to the crooners of the day.  Happy, happy times.

As quickly as we could blink, it seems we are now the grown ups.  Our children have children of their own, and we have become the last generation, for all those before us are now gone.  It made me think about mortality and about making sure we make the most of this life, right now, today.

The opening words in the chapel yesterday talked of judging the success of a life by looking at how it was lived.  I think this is really important.  You see it is easy to judge success by wealth or by worth, by a career or a bank balance, but actually in the end the only thing is this.  Did you leave the world a better place, for you being in it?  Did you step up and offer a helping hand?  Did you listen endlessly to childish tales, each one heard before, and still smile and encourage?  All the truly important stuff is actually really simple.

I know, because I have been there too often, the pain my cousins are feeling today, I also know that with time they will remember and smile.  There will come a day when it isn’t the first thing they think of, and another when they realise that they have been so busy living they have not thought of loss.  They may then feel a little guilty, but they should not.  It is in those days, the busy, happy days, that those we have lost are closest to us.

So, we have said goodbye to our last Uncle, and this morning we greet another day.  A day to get things right, to make the most of life and to hold each other a little closer.  You see there is never a good time to say goodbye, the best remembrance of all is to live a life well enough and to make most of it, now, while we can.

on not dying after all

Five years ago today I went into hospital to have an operation which saved my life. Without being too dramatic, if I hadn’t had the care and attention quickly I simply would not be here today.

An experience such as this changes you.  After all this time I will never forget the way I was treated, cared for and healed by a team of people who worked together to fix me.  The 4th August 2010 was in some way the beginning of the rest of my life.

There is something about facing the fear of illness and surviving that makes you consider all that came after.  I can still see the doctors talking together, working out how to make me well. I can see the nurses who held my hand and the wonderful young registrar who stayed with me all night, a night I had no faith I would survive. Their skills, their professionalism, humanism and all round wonderfulness pulled me through.

On sunny days with my family I find myself thinking about them, and saying a silent thank you. Thank you to the NHS, the best of the best, from my GP who took my worries seriously, to the hospital clinic team and the surgeons and nurses who literally made me well.  Thank you really doesn’t seem enough.

In the five years since lots of things have happened and I have been here for all of them.  Here to support my family, through tough times, here to see my son marry his amazing wife, here to hold their daughter, my baby Granddaughter and to watch her turning from new born baby to gorgeous toddler in front of our eyes.   Here to make my wedding vows with the best man in the world by my side, surrounded by our friends and family to celebrate our good fortune in finding each other.  This is the same man who spent the hours I was in surgery in the hospital Chapel and who made sure his was the first face I saw when I awoke.  Here for countless sunny holidays and fun times, all of which would have been lost to me, but for good fortune and our NHS.

Five years on I am still being me, a Mum and a Wife, a Nana and a Sister. I still have great friends and a wonderful life.  So, this morning I will take a moment to reflect on how fortunate I have been, how thankful I am to live in a country where we can access the best health care ever, and to count my blessings of which I have many.

This was the second time my life was saved by the NHS, as a baby another operation in another hospital gave me my whole life.  I have always know this, but never had the memories, I was too young to remember.  This time I will never forget.

Thank you for the rest of my life.  I will try and make the most of every day of the time I nearly didn’t have.  I will stand up for our NHS proudly and loudly and I will fight in every way I can to protect it.  I have to, I owe my life to them.  Twice.