It has been a rollercoaster week with one of the biggest ‘highs’ and lowest ‘lows’ of my life within a 24 hour period; neither of them planned. I would like to write about both of these but will choose today (Sunday) to share a personal story and keep the ‘professional’ story, about my inclusion on the ‘HSJ Inspirational Women, 2014 list,’ for later.
As regular readers will know, I have been knocked to the core by the death of my wonderful best friend Lindsay Kyle. And it was her funeral this week.
When people asked me what time the funeral was, I said “all day” and effectively it was.
I certainly had no plans to do anything else and it provided a much-needed opportunity to process and reflect, to grieve and to celebrate. Time and space for proper reflection is all too rare these days as we all bustle away with our busy lives.
Along with a few other very close friends, we were very privileged to join the family for the whole day in what was the most wonderfully sad but beautiful day of remembrance. During the course of the day, we all contributed, whether by reading or singing or playing an instrument or just being there as a huge comfort to others. Lindsay’s younger son, sang a wonderful rendition of “Sure on this Shining Night.” How a 17 year old can sing like that at his Mum’s funeral, immediately after his Dad’s very moving tribute, when those around are in tears totally beats me – well done Billy Kyle.
I was not sure whether I would be able to read my poem, but I did as Lindsay would have loved us all joining in and doing our best.
It made me think what was best about family, friends and community as we grieved together, laughed together, sang together and reflected on a glorious sunny day with Lindsay’s very talented musical family singing and the jazz band, of which she was a keen saxophone player, playing in her honour. Basking in the evening sun, we were jamming until late outdoors with much laughter and a fair amount of wine; it all reminded me of what really matters in life and how lucky we are if we have such loving relationships.
Alison, one of Lindsay’s friends from her university days, now working for the BBC and a wonderful speaker, gave a tribute that really struck a chord with me and my philosophy about connections and how we all influence each other’s lives. She told tales of the play Lindsay was involved in with their mutual friend, the late Anthony Minghella. Already the threads were crossing over into my life as through Twitter I have met his lovely sister and talented jazz singer, Edana Minghella.
We have shared stories about Lindsay starring in Anthony’s first recognised play, written during student days. Lindsay played ‘the Sophisticated Lady’ in Anthony’s ‘Möbius the Stripper’ at Hull University; she showed me the drawings she did at the time, as they planned the costumes. Colourful tales of risquė outfits and being busted by the police… apparently they decided not to press charges. 😉
Lindsay was a very talented artist and Alison used the image of paintings to structure her story. As she ran through a series of wonderful cameos taken from her long friendship with Lindsay, she pointed out that we would all have our own pictures. Each picture would be different, reflecting our own individual and very personal memories. And yet the similarities between the paintings would be considerable – recognising the same lovely, vibrant, colourful, stylish, natural person in whose life we had all had the privilege to share.
Her house is full of her paintings and as I look round mine, we have quite a few too. And my Mum. And her other friends. And countless painted cards and gifts. And recordings of her singing. Her spirit is everywhere and lives on through her talented, wonderful boys and the fabulous example she has set in how to live a generous and fulfilling life. And that is really lovely legacy.
Lindsay wasn’t a big fan of social media. She was a ‘here and now’ kind of girl, enjoying the moment and those immediately around her. She didn’t really ‘get’ my love of Twitter and yet was fascinated by the tales I told of real connections, friendships and the rich tapestry of inter-twining stories and lives.
In my head, I frequently compared Lindsay’s experience of living with terminal cancer to that of Dr Kate Granger, whom I have now had the privilege to meet on several occasions. I really admire Kate as a wonderful human being dealing with something so difficult, as well as all her actual achievements. I have thought about the added insights and knowledge that being a doctor brings – good and bad – and similarly the extra dimension of having a huge loving ‘Twitter family’ as well as your real life family and friends. No conclusions – there are none really, just reflections. I am doing a lot of reflecting at the moment and as far as I can see there are no real answers to any of it other than choosing your own path and being true to yourself, as both of these wonderful ladies have been.
Lindsay’s experiences of cancer and her treatment have been used directly in some of my Whose Shoes? scenarios, as they are all sourced from real people and real experiences.
Indeed her voice is used in some of the cards in the electronic version. It will be hard but very special indeed when these play out in my workshops in the future. You can listen here to her powerful call for professional health workers to walk in her shoes…
I will leave you with some advice from the late Anthony Minghella, in the words of his brother Dominic. I know Lindsay would be of the same mind:
“You should never let a day go by without creating something. That means something new. That means living, not dwelling.”