It was a Friday morning. Last year. I cancelled classes. I quietly slipped out at 4am and drove three hours south. To see my dearest friend. To spend a few hours with her before I drove home again.

I can’t remember Anna not being in my life. What started at school continued through work, saw us through our fair share of drunken weekends, breakups and breakdowns, dumb moves and interstate moves.

Along with Anna, her mum Lou became a fixture in my life. She arrived because of Anna but remained because of her. Everything about her was homely. She was comfort. The kind of comfort that erased any awkwardness, even when I turned up hungry and without Anna.

Last year I made the trip because Anna was up from Sydney and Lou was dying. Pancreatic cancer. It showed up as something like sore ribs.

Straight from sore ribs to stage four. She was given 9 months.

On Friday last week I took the same drive. To Lou’s funeral.

She made a mockery of 9 months. She saw babies born. She got kids married. She travelled. She opened her home to refugees. She spent an inordinate amount of time harassing Peter Dutton, a legacy I personally feel compelled to carry on.

Because she never swore, she didn’t tell 9 months to f*ck off in as many words. Instead she sent the message by living and really living for 2.3 years post diagnosis.

Because Lou was Lou her parting words were “don’t follow me to the crematorium. Chuff me off. Then go party.”

When I left the party to drive the three hours back home, the music was suitably loud, the beer fridge was empty and the first bottle of vodka had been cracked. I think Lou would have been happy with the turnout.

It’s the turnout though, the people who have to go back to work on Monday and reconstruct their lives without Lou, that need a bit more.

I knew Anna would need a bit more so I started collecting bits of more for when the time was right.  I collected them in a shoebox, Asics I think.

The first thing that went into the shoebox was something I wrote for her.

The way she left
tells you everything

I wrote it in a notebook along with some other little poems and words. I added  a bottle of geranium deodorant with a label around its neck, “for the days you can’t face showering”. I also added a bottle of rose hip oil labelled “for when you’ve spent all day crying and your skin has no more tears”. I added a silver necklace and love pendant with “just because” on its label. Finally a bunch of crystals for “when you need all the help you can get, even the hippy kind”.

I hoped the box contained as much practical help as spiritual nurturing. Maybe looking after her body with oil and perfume would help her mind feel a bit more anchored. Maybe reading poems and pondering their meaning would take the attention away from the inevitable pit of emptiness.

And because my body was hurting, from crying and oscillating between anger and overwhelm, I did yoga. Yoga feels like the box I tried to create.

Equal parts practical and spiritual.

It takes a team.

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