Friends - Always and Forever

A Letter to Claire

Sunday 21st February 2021 and I put my phone down. You're gone.

I have just sent you a message via Messenger to tell you how much I love you and how much I will miss you. It's true you may not see it but I believe you can hear it. I believe you can hear me.

I met you 42 plus years ago when our family moved to the Isle of Man. You and your sister lived just around the corner. If I remember right, you were nearly 10 and Kirsty was 7 (I was in the middle - 8). You had a bigger garden with a stream and a really big tree that you encouraged me to climb. I was stuck up there for SO long until you finally asked your Dad to help me down. Very funny - for you and Kirsty!

I thought you were the coolest girl EVER. You started big school before me. You got your ears pierced before me. You dyed your hair and wore make-up before me. You had a boyfriend before me. You were taller and so much more beautiful than me. You got a tattoo before me.

We have spent a good portion of those 42 years living apart. We wrote to each other at first - no phone calls, texts, e-mails, whatsapp or zoom - we actually wrote to each other. I left the Island for a while too but came back and decided to do a Beauty Therapy course - I bumped into you - you were also back living on the Island and wanted to do the Beauty Therapy course too! It was so great to be living in the same place again - what fun we had. It wasn't the same house but once again you had the coolest home. We were together through thick and thin on that course, both travelling from Laxey to Douglas together on the bus. We both worked in a couple of the big hotels in the evenings doing 'Wine Waitressing' - we were so good at clearing up all the unfinished bottles of wine! On Christmas Days, when I wasn't allowed to watch Top of the Pops, after dinner, I would run from our home to yours and watch it with you. We both graduated as Beauty Therapists, but I developed contact dermatitis and moved to Fitness Training, which took me away from you again and I settled in Brighton. Very soon after you left the Island for Blackpool and started your own business. You got your first mortgage and owned your first home while I was employed and just rented. I was so proud of you.

You raved in Blackpool while I discovered R&B in Brighton. Every weekend we danced and partied - you in a rave in a huge venue in Blackpool - me in a tiny dance hall venue in Brighton. We wrote to each other - no phone calls, texts, e-mails, whatsapp or zoom - we actually wrote to each other. Those years of living apart, we were both blessed by making lots of lovely friends and it was fantastic to share our stories with each other and to sometimes be able to meet each other's friends. We were both huge Madonna fans and we went to her Confessions UK Tour together.

My Dad passed away and I came back to the Island. I got married. You were my chief bridesmaid. I got divorced. We holidayed in Turkey, New York and Mexico. You met someone in Blackpool and moved back to the Island. I met someone on the Island and I got married in Gretna Green - you were there. You got married next, back on the Island, just the two of you - so romantic. You got pregnant with a bit of IVF but needed post injections which, when your husband couldn't be there, I would administer to your tiny little bottom - how we laughed! You had a beautiful daughter, named Faye Margaret. I got pregnant with a bit of IVF (but to your relief I didn't need you to inject my big bum) and 14 months after you gave birth to Faye, I had a beautiful boy, named Samuel John Jacob.

We enjoyed a decade of living together in the same place. We helped each other with apartment / house moves a few times - wow lady - you kept EVERYTHING! You got breast cancer - I was devastated - but you beat it! You lost your Mum, Nana and Dad. You got divorced.

You got breast reconstruction and needed me to collect you from hospital. I parked my car in the hospital car park and helped you to the main door where I left you waiting for me to get the car. Between reversing out of my car park space and driving to the front door of the hospital I got a burst tyre! You got in with a bag containing all your drains - you wore pyjamas and a dressing gown. My car limped out from the front of the hospital only to die just around the corner. You stood at the side of the road in your pyjamas and dressing gown, holding your bag of drains and exclaimed, 'well this isn't much of a chuffing rescue, Lou!' No worries - I had called a taxi. After leaving my car where it was and getting you home in a taxi, I helped you shower and got you into bed making sure you had all sorts of drinks and snacks to aid your recovery. Before I left you I took your car so I could collect Samuel. We rescued each other that day!

Samuel was diagnosed with autism and I disappeared into myself only to be dragged out again by you, kicking my arse. You were the one to tell me to get my act together, telling me that if people in my life didn't accept Samuel for what he is then I should just remove them from my life.  You helped me with the following years of research, always sending me any information that you thought could help. That research took us to Northern Ireland each month and also to America for a therapy programme. Inevitably all the research took me away from you again when we left the Island and moved to Scotland to get more help for Samuel. Throughout all of this you had met a man and you were so in love with him. Then your cancer came back and I was devastated again. You FOUGHT it again. I hated leaving you while you battled with cancer but you kissed me goodbye the day before we left for Scotland and told me that I was doing the right thing. Living apart again, we didn't write letters to each other - we phoned, texted and had wifi so could e-mail, whatsapp or zoom. I had been living in Scotland for a year until I was able to visit you. We had a lovely night, lots of talking and lots of cuddles - I returned to Scotland the next day and a month later lockdown happened. I didn't know it at the time but that was the last time I would ever cuddle you. A year went past - we didn't write letters to each other - we phoned, texted and had wifi so could e-mail, whatsapp or zoom.

3 days ago you messaged me to tell me that you were in hospital. You told me you were so exhausted and that you just wanted to sleep. I messaged you the next day to check how you were feeling but didn't hear back. And then, quite suddenly, you were gone. I can't phone, I can't text, e-mail, whatsapp or zoom.

I can write to you though and simply talk to you, either just in my own head or out loud, even if you can't talk back I believe you can hear me. I miss you. I have loved you for over 40 years and I will continue to love and miss you, my dear, beautiful friend. I know you are with your family now and safe. I know you will see my Dad, too, so please don't tell him everything we got up to - it would give him another heart attack!

Until we meet again, thank you for being my friend. Thank you for all of the memories that I will share with your beautiful daughter. Be at peace and sleep well, my lovely girl. I am here whenever you need me - don't write a letter, don't phone, text, e-mail, whatsapp or zoom.

Just call my name and I will hear you. ANYTIME. ALWAYS. FOREVER. ❤