I lost a friend this week. She died in the early hours of Thursday morning and I was notified, along with many others, by her daughter through the Facebook group she helped to set up a few years ago. Yes, that’s right. Facebook. Susie may not have been a close friend, someone I had known for many years and met up with regularly (she lived a long way away from me) but does that make my grief any the less real? For I am definitely grieving.
We all “met up” through another Facebook group, originally, then some of us left and became friends outside of that group, before, with two of her closest friends, she formed the separate group we now all belong to. She messaged me privately and said: “I want to be your friend because I rather like you.” Flattered, I replied with: “I rather like you, too,” and so our Facebook friendship was sealed.
She wasn’t that much older than me – in her mid-sixties – and a fierce, fighting spirit to the very last. She never showed any self-pity, even when enduring gruelling hospital treatments and thought only of others, though she had no time or patience for people complaining of what she saw as minor health issues. Whingers and whiners got short shrift from her. She made a formidable enemy (she sometimes fell out with people through her blunt outspokenness and forthright opinions) and you most definitely would have wanted her on your team. She had the biggest heart, the daftest and naughtiest sense of humour, was generous to those she cared about, was always up for having fun, was hugely protective of her adored (and adoring) family and friends and supported and looked after anyone who came into her orbit.
The phrase “They broke the mould when they made her” definitely applied to Susie. A tough, working-class South Londoner through and through, she was proud of her origins and environment and though, in later life, her circumstances changed and she and her husband moved right out of the city to be closer to their children and grandchildren, it was clear that it was never far from her thoughts and she often referred to her happy memories of growing up and living there.
She regularly posted hilarious stories of her life (she really should have been a professional writer) and upbeat and uplifting messages, almost to the last, exhorting us to be happy, enjoy life, get out there and face it head on, get our smiles on, have fun, have a laugh, a drink and a boogie and just live life to the full. She called herself “a greedy food whore” (amongst other things), swore like a trouper and, before she became seriously ill, was always talking about who she would be visiting and “bothering” that day. She had had plenty of sad times in her own life but never allowed it to turn into bitterness and self-pity. You only have to read the hundreds of outpourings of love and sorrow online to know what a great, gaping, cavernous hole she has left behind her.
So, goodbye, dear Susie. We never met in real life but I really, really hope we will meet “up there” one day. Meanwhile, thank you for your Facebook friendship, for including me in your orbit and sharing tales and photos of your happy life with all of your friends. We know you would hate us to be sad but please allow us this time of mourning until we can get our smiles back and, as you used to say, pull up our big knickers, put our dancing shoes on, get out there and get on with living. Cheers!