I'm pondering somethings I wish I didn't have to think about at the moment.
The call came through yesterday afternoon. My friend Flora rang with the news I'd been dreading. Flora's sister, Rose, had passed away.
A little bit of history.
I've known Flora since university. She's one of my oldest friends. She now lives in Canberra with ther husband, Pierro, and three-year-old daughter, Natascha - or Natty for short. I was Flora's bridesmaid a few years ago when she and Pierro wed. Flora wrote to me monthly when I was in London. Along with Bernadette and Geetangeli, she's my longest standing friend. They're the friends when things happen, you drop everything for, even when you may not speak to them for months at a time - like when Bernie had to go and have her appendix out, I was round sitting her kids while Gav when and collected her Mum from the airport. Or when Geetangeli's Mum passed, flowers and phone calls were made - just as when I was in hospital last year, visits and calls were there while I recouperated.
Flora, Bernie and I have another modern dilemma - we're in one place, the family are in another. It can make for some fun times. Treks back to Adelaide are common for us all. And as I have family in Canberra, I'm used to popping up there regularly, not only to see my glorious, aging Aunt, but to spend some time with Flora and her tribe too.
I know Flora's family quite well. When on my way through Sydney to visit a friend in hospital in Newcastle, I dropped in for a cup of tea - this was demanded of me. At Flora's wedding, I sat entertaining her niece, Amy and the other flowergirls who'd gotten to know me as we all got ready. There's pictures of me at Natty's christening giving her a bottle talking to Nana and one of the aunts. I'm treated like one of the family. It's lovely. Flora's mum, sister and brother are my facebook friends - and they drop in the odd comment. We're in each others lives in a remote sort of way. They're a lovely family.
They certainly don't deserve this heartache.
What make's Rose's passing even more tragic is it's sudden nature. She was fine a fortnight ago. Then things happened, she was moved from ward to ward, hospital to hospital, getting progressively more ill. First I found out about it was last Thursday when Flora emailed to say she was about to go on the transplant list. I was on the phone to Flora immediately. Complicating matters, her parents were in the middle of moving house. Flora's Mum did the mercy dash to Adelaide, Flora was preparing to go to Sydney to help her father move.
And now this happens.
When she called, Flora was stoic. This is Flora all over. A great woman to have in a crisis. Practical to the point of pragmatic. Straight down the line. Dealing with a distraught father on one side of the country while the world was imploding in Adelaide. I could hear the stress cracking her voice. She will be allowed to grieve later - once things have been sorted. Once the family have moved house and the funeral arrangements have been made and some of the shock has worn off.
She's asked me to come up to Canberra in the next few days to look after Natty while they go to Rose's funeral. Making the 12 hour drive to Adelaide is hard enough without having a three-year-old in the back of the car. Of course I'll oblige.
Maybe this is why the universe has kept work from coming my way so far - so I can make my way to Canberra, to be there to take Natty to day care, feed her, read her a story, take her to the playground and generally care for her while her parents attend to the horrors of saying goodbye. Of course I will go. How much trouble can I get into with a three-year-old? (Don't answer that! Actually, I'm thankful that when in Canberra my Aunt, grandmother to thirteen, great-grandmother to five or so, is about the place to advise, as are two of my cousins, each who've had kids)
But the things that keep going through my mind, other than thinking about Rose's husband and children, which is all just too awful, are part of the modern dilemmas. What happens to her facebook page? What is the etiquette with all of this? She's not here any more. She has nearly 300 facebook friends. Does one post a goodbye message there? What about the fly-by-night friends? Is this the way things are notified in these times? Does this page get closed down now she is no longer here?
We won't go into what happens to the mobile phone - that vocal reminder on the message bank that can be called any time of the day or night when you want to hear her voice - or the answering machine - the board at the church where her picture is up there along with the other vergers. These digital reminders never used to be there.
Flora's also made some valid points in our conversations. Rose was an active member of her local church - who gets dibs on the funeral service - friends or family? Their pastor will conduct the service, but the pastor has never met her parents. He knows her husband and kids, but not the extended family. Can he or she minister to the rest of the family? What the family may want for the funeral arrangements may not be right for the church community. There's a lot of possible politics to be involved.
Rose's passing has left me shaken. I'm pleased to be there for Flora, but it's opened up a whole heap of questions for me.
So many questions that I called my own sister last night.
"Don't die." I told her, "I'm not sure what I'd do."
"I've got too much to do. I'm not going anywhere. Don't you go anywhere either. "
"Same for me."
"You know I love you," I told my sister. "I don't tell you that very often, but I have no idea how I'd cope. I know we're not that close, but I do love you."
"I love you too, and I'd be in the same boat if it happened to us. It's just too awful," said my sister.
My sister and I were crying by the end of the conversation.
There are no blessings in Rose's passing, a vibrant, loving woman in her mid-thirties, mother of two, carer of many in her work role, a woman full of fun, life and love. The only thing it has shown me is that you have to value your relationships, value them regularly, tell people you care whether they be close or not. You never know when they may be taken away from you.
Rest peacefully, Rose.