In 2008/9, as I was going through treatment, I met and formed close bonds with a group of women going through the same thing at the same time. We'd 'meet' online most days to support each other and work through the complexities of what was happening. Four years later the group is as strong as it ever was and we are still in regular contact.
For a while, things have been a bit difficult again. A number of us have been, and still are, dealing with cancer-related health issues and there have been other trials and tribulations. Some of us have lost more friends and colleagues to this disease recently and the scares have been coming thick and fast. At the same time, we have now picked up our regular lives with work and family commitments plus all the fun things in life.
A few weeks ago that sparked a thoughtful discussion about our feelings. One minute we may be mourning someone we'd come to care for and know well, while the next we are sharing details of happy days out or a meal with friends. Reconciling the paradox without feeling guilty isn't always easy but, especially when the person we mourn was someone with a great zest for life, enjoying the fun things in our own lives seems a fitting way of honouring them.
I have been reminded of that discussion this weekend as I met, at an historical market, another group of friends who have supported me. In years gone by one of the people I'd have seen there was Gerry; this time was the final selling of his remaining stock. Although I shed a few tears I also laughed and smiled as we recalled some of the fun times we'd all had at events. Gerry was certainly one of those people who had a great zest for life.
Of course, this situation is not restricted to those of us who are living with and/or beyond a potentially life-threatening illness. Joy and tragedy live side by side for most people at some point. However, for those of us here in the Land of New Normal the contrast can be that bit sharper. We know that life is precious and most of us have resolved to live it to the full, so our pleasures and relationships can be a bit more exhilarating and special. We have formed close bonds with others in a similar situation, so when we are concerned for them we tend to be very concerned indeed; and when we lose one of them, the loss hits us hard.
It feels important to acknowledge this and be honest about our feelings, which does happen in that group of us who first came together online in 2008/9. When one person is happy and enjoying life, the rest are happy for her. When someone is concerned, frightened or sad, the others are there to assure her of our love and support. And we can cope with both occurring at the same time.
So provided we don't all fall into Black Canyon at the same time, there will be someone to guide us through the difficult times. Come to think of it, even if we do all go over the edge together, one of us will have a rope while another finds she has a bag of gingerbread women and yet another will have a first aid kit. Moreover, it won't be long before someone starts a sing-song.
And, given the hand we're playing, what more can you ask?