Being the inadequate mummy I am, I do find I need more stimulation than Bob the Builder and the like. So I spend probably longer than I should on Netmums and Twitter. Very recently, I have started to use Facebook more tempted into such behaviours by the Stanningley Wives.
Yesterday, as I Facebooked, I noticed that one of my friends had joined a group with a familiar name, two dates and the letters RIP. It took me a good few minutes to work out that this group on Facebook was about someone I was at school with and that RIP could only mean death. Before accessing the Facebook page concerned, I tried to summon up an image of the woman concerned or rather the girl I knew. The profile picture on the page showed the girl I remembered probably at about the age of 18 with big Eighties hair and a dress very similar to one I used to wear way back then. Further investigation showed M had died at the age of 40 leaving behind a partner and 3 young children. The Facebook page has been set up by her daughter and contained loads of messages from people. Suddenly I registered the dates and realised that her funeral was at my old family church on Monday this week. I had missed the opportunity to attend and pay my respects by just two days.
Now I am not always the nicest person in the world and I have to admit that I have never felt particularly pleasant thoughts about the woman who has died from cancer and far too young. She was full of life and fun. When I was at school, I was very studious and viewed as a bit of a swot and a Tory. There was truth in the first but the second assumption shows how daft we all are in assigning labels to people without discovering more about that individual. One key image that has come to me time after time over the years is of M and her younger sister outside my local corner shop with bottles of cider having a great time. Of course, I never did such things then and nobody would have invited me along anyway. I was the fat one at size 8, the ugly one, the clever one. The unacceptable one.
Another image comes back of M turning up to the house where I was babysitting a girl and three boys. Against my better judgement, I had said I would also let her little brother stay that evening. Boys got wild in the pool room and suddenly, M's brother came into the room spurting blood from his neck area. He was panicking and running from room to room with bright red blood going up walls. I was 17 and out of my depth. I had a 3 year old little girl with a morbid fascination with the incident as if it was the best thing she had ever witnessed. One of the boys was retching at the scene. Another was scared what his Mum and Dad would say when they got home as he had attacked M's brother with a cue. I telephoned M's parents but they were out socialising and did not come, perhaps not realising just how serious things were. Eventually, after another telephone call, they sent M. She came and like me, did not know what to do. I telephoned my Mum who was furious that I had been left with an extra charge and told me to phone an ambulance. I did this and they came and took over and I don't remember much after that. Later, I was told the boy had to have 8 stitches.
So to be honest, that incident is probably the most M and I ever came close to getting to know each other or communicating. Reading the messages on Facebook from people who knew her well, I felt at a later date and in different circumstances, we could have forged a friendship. How lovely that someone could say that she never had a bad word to say about anyone. I can't claim that yet have so freely looked down my nose at her or the memory of her. Another message refers to her being an avid charity shopper. I love charity shops so we had common ground there.
So what can I do? I post a message of condolence for her partner, parents, siblings and children. I contact her sister saying that I had never known two sisters as close.
I am on my own apart from my little boy and I feel totally shocked. Is it because she was my age? Or that she had 3 children as I do? Is it a reminder of cancer and its ravages, raising memories of how quickly mum went from diagnosis to death and how it still seems surreal most of the time.
My Dad telephones from his caravan holiday in Kent and I tell him the news. He says I am reacting normally. I send an email to my best friend from school who says she feels the same as myself. We make promises to live for today and stop worrying about silly things. We acknowledge that we now have 3 deaths from our year to mourn - a suicide, a car crash victim and now M from cancer.
And then we get on with our lives and make all the usual daily mistakes. Maybe a little older, maybe a little wiser, definitely a little more appreciative of what we do have.
Rest in Peace M