I’m sitting at my dining room table making Christmas decorations from vintage crystals.
And I’m thinking about Selma.
My beautiful friend passed away on the 4th July this year. Ten days later, my dad was in hospital. I was so emotionally shattered from losing Dad that I haven’t had a chance to write about Selma until now.
Last December, I packed some of my Swarovski earrings and Christmas decorations into a little box and sent them to Selma in London. Her handle on Twitter and Instagram was Diva Sparkle and oh, how she loved shiny things.
She was a true kindred spirit. We would message each other regularly, chatting about life and family and our views on the world. Very early on in our friendship, she told me about her cancer. I knew it wasn’t a good prognosis – she’d been in remission for over a year when her cancer had returned in an aggressive, secondary form. By the time we met, she’d already lost a small section of her spine to bone cancer.
But Selma didn’t want sympathy. I understood that completely. Sympathy, so often well intentioned, allows our difficulties to define us. Selma refused to let that happen. She was resolutely upbeat, enjoying every moment she had with her beloved son Jake and her very dear friends.
At the end of last year, I sent her some of my Priscilla sourdough starter. We had the most glorious fun that January. We exchanged bread photos, scrutinized bubbling bowls of starter, and raved like excited mad women as Selma turned out the most incredible loaves. She took to sourdough baking like a duck to water – I’d never met anyone who mastered it so completely from the very first loaf. But then again, Selma was seriously smart. She was always finding a clever way to tweak a recipe, or turning a technique on its head to produce a better result.
We would chat about our wonderful sons, help each other choose outfits for special occasions, compare the weather in our different parts of the world, and discuss how we lived our lives. And occasionally we’d share our troubles, because that’s what a complete friendship entails, but it was rarely negative or dismal. Our conversations always centered on how fortunate we were, and how much we had to be grateful for.
When times were really hard, we would just hold each other’s virtual hand. A week before she died, I messaged Selma. I knew she’d been in hospital a couple of weeks prior, but I hadn’t heard from her since she’d been home.
Darling, she said, I’m really terrible. I’ve never felt so sick in my entire life. We agreed that she needed to call an ambulance. She’d barely kept any food down for a week.
Selma, I’m scared, I finally confessed.
It’s ok darling, she said, please don’t worry, just think positive thoughts. I’ve just had a severe reaction to the new meds.
I knew it wasn’t true, and I knew she knew that too. But the only thing I could do from the other side of the world was to keep her company as she waited for the ambulance. So we pretended everything was fine, and we talked about Jake and Small Man and their upcoming exams, and we laughed about how different it had all been when we were at school. I sent her photos of Big Boy and Monkey Girl, and told her funny stories from my uni days. I said that once her medications were sorted, she’d be able to come home and eat the chicken soup we both loved so much.
Then I told her about a post I’d written the previous week, inspired by her amazing attitude to life. And I told her I adored her, and we said goodbye. She texted the following day to say she was in hospital. I never heard from her again.
Our final conversation was one of laughter and joy and love. Those forty minutes of texting and virtual hand holding felt like a gift and a privilege. I later heard that Selma’s best friend Alex flew in from South Africa when he’d heard that she was in hospital. Apparently he’d arrived and immediately made sure all of Selma’s affairs were in order for her, and that Jake would be well looked after in the future. I have trouble even typing that without crying, because that was always her major concern, making sure Jake would be okay. I can’t imagine a more powerful final act of love than one which enabled her to die in peace.
Farewell, Diva Sparkle. Thank you for the laughter, and the conversations, and for your continued inspiration. I miss you very much. ♥