In loving memory of Sue
It is three years ago today since the death of Sue, my closest friend.
Sue and I met in September 1989. We had both just arrived in Australia from England to work as newly recruited, registered nurses. Sue was a Yorkshire lass, and I was from Liverpool. It was the first day of our orientation course, at the Austin Hospital, in Heidelberg. We gravitated to one another, having spotted the other, across the room. We were both dressed in our typical English attire and had strong, northern accents. We shared a tendency, to see the absurd, or simultaneously, crack up laughing at some silly thing, such as noticing someone’s bung elastic undies, or a boogie peeping from a nasal passage.
Sue was four years younger than me, and she was ravishing. We had both enjoyed our teenage years during the mid seventies, and growing up in Northern England.
Our nurse training had been very much the old hospital based system, and as a young, third year student nurse, it was expected that, we would assume a fair degree of responsibility, the term, ‘being thrown in, at the deep end’ was often appropriately used, however we thrived on the challenges.
We loved to talk about our memories of, ‘the good auld days and, how we had performed our nurse duties, in the typical old-fashioned Nightingale wards, the type featured, in post war cinema, and where the hospital beds were aligned in long rows on either side of the huge, high ceilinged ward. We wore starched linen caps, buckled belts, and adhered to the rank and file system, and were required to address our seniors, as ‘Nurse Short, or Sister Whatever ya name was…’
As friends, we shared so much. We were both married within the same week, during the summer of 1991. We had our babies; breastfed together, babysat for each other, celebrated good times, and supported one another through the difficult times, particularly Sue’s marriage breakdown to the father of her two young children.
Sue and I had many wonderful, frivolous weekends at The Langham Hotel, in Southbank and shared a twin room with all the luxurious benefits of fine Belgian chocolates, and pink champagne. We adored lolling about in fluffy white dressing gowns, placing a room service order at 1am, and chatting and giggling in the dark, while marvelling at the magnificent,vistas of the city. As we drifted off to sleep, we held hands, and like the Brady Bunch, we’d whisper into the darkness, ‘night – night.’
I will miss you sweetie. xo
During the summer of 2007, and while I was away on holiday with my family, I had a dream about Sue. In the dream, Sue told me that she was dying. Upon waking from this dream, I felt understandably unsettled. The following day, Sue rang me to tell me that she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and had developed metastatic spread to her peritoneum. She was forty-two.
For five years, Sue fought a hard battle. She married Bob, her teenage sweetheart on the week prior to undergoing a hysterectomy, and subsequently endured many rounds of chemotherapy while also, continuing to work as a nurse in a busy accident and emergency unit.
During this time, I celebrated my fiftieth birthday with one hundred very special guests, at the Paris Cat Jazz Club, a bohemian little underground boudoir bar, tucked away, in a narrow lane-way in the city. Sue honoured me that night, by delivering a moving speech. It was indeed a tribute to our special friendship, but, the resolute tone and strength in her voice belied her own private agony. The previous day, Sue had had a procedure to have an IV pic line inserted to facilitate the next aggressive chemotherapy treatment. As my friend stood on the stage in front of the lectern, hidden from sight and beneath her silk top, she wore a dressing to cover the intravenous cannula insertion site, that was snaking into the large, deep veins of her heart.
Her cancer had spread into her lungs, liver and bones.
Three years ago today, in a dimmed, private room of a palliative care hospice, in Melbourne, I sat, at three am, with the lifeless body of my dear friend, Sue.
Tonight, I am remembering. I miss you sweetie. May you rest in peace.