It greatly saddens me to write my post today after learning of the death of our friend, Anne Lister, in Overgate Hospice yesterday. I understand that Anne had her lifelong friend, Kay Green, by her side to hold her hand during her final hour. Thank you, Kay, for having been such a good friend to Anne for so long and for always having been there for her in her times of need.
Stars are born out of dark moments, and Anne was most definitely a star that dropped out of the heavens for me seven years ago (like a veritable Mary Poppins) who had witnessed a foreboding cloud on my horizon after I'd just been given the medical news that I had incurable blood cancer, with an average life span of three years. Three knocks on my door and when I opened it, there stood Anne who was armed with the broadest smile I'd seen for a long time, and in her hands, she held a pot of whiskey marmalade(that tasted as though that also had been made in heaven by its maker). "Hi there, Bill. I'm Anne" she said as she introduced herself. "I heard on Facebook that you weren't so well, so I thought that I'd pay you a visit and give you a little pressie".
Over the remainder of Anne's lifetime, I was to discover that I was just one of many dozens of people who had cancer to whom Anne made her regular house calls to with her smiling face and pots of whiskey marmalade. It soon became evident by both the number of her Facebook followers who eagerly awaited reading Anne's daily posts, and what they openly declared to feel for her, that she was a highly popular and much-loved person in their lives.
Over the next seven years, Anne visited me at my home twice yearly and we met up a few times in a cafe in Brighouse for a coffee and a natter. I felt privileged to call her my friend and she gave me tremendous moral encouragement by telling me that she had a husband who had cancer for 14 years and he too had only been given three years left to live at the diagnostic stage. I never met her husband, Michael, but during his later years, Anne told me that aggressive cancer had started eating away at his face, leaving him facially disfigured and requiring a number of reconstructive operations. By the time Michael died, he had to be fed through a tube. Throughout her husband's lengthy illness, Anne cared for her husband and in whatever spare time she had, she also cared for other cancer sufferers through her visits to their homes and the support she gave, both physically and morally.
Many people do things in order to invite popularity, and even when the battle for popularity seems to have been won by them, they discover that they still are not the most wholesome of individuals, because their popularity does not necessarily bring with it ' unqualified respect'. Anne was wise enough to know that as one of my favourite authors, Victor Hugo, said, "Popularity is glory’s small change". Ann knew that 'unqualified respect' is the gift of another, freely given, and is never a prize of war which is demanded by another. Anne had the love and respect of everyone who knew her.
Anne was many things to many people, and there was not one thing bad about her that I ever heard from anybody. All of us credit ourselves with the vainglorious belief that 'we know somebody inside out', but such perceptions are greatly mistaken. As a general rule, we only ever get to know about a person, that which they want us to know about them, and Anne was no different in this respect. Her late husband and her best friend, Kay Green, will have known a side of Anne that others will have never seen; and even husband and best friend will also have known things that the other never did. Such is the proper way of things when we establish our own safety valves to control the boiler of our emotions.
The only thing we ever know about another person with 100% certainty is what they meant to us, and how they made us feel in their presence, and how their actions and words impacted our lives.
For me, Anne strengthened my resolve to go on in the belief that I would play a very significant part in saying when my race was over and I had become too tired to run any longer. Anne made me laugh by her often irreverent approach and attitude towards life while remaining able to maintain her deep respect for the deeply-held beliefs and the traditions of others. I admired Anne's natural talent as a born writer. She was a lover of the English language; she enjoyed a joke but never went in for 'toilet humour' as she called it, and she was a raconteur of a good story. Was I to guess, I would suspect that accompanying her 'proper' behavior at all times might have been the occasional shadow companion of 'primness'.
Sleep soundly, Annie (a name she allowed me to call her by, outside the company of others, and which I suspect to have been a privilege granted to me). When you next open your eyes, may they be focussed upon the eternal heaven you always deserved? I sing for you, Annie, the only song I have ever sung to you before. The song suits you to a 't' as your capacity to fill up the senses of everyone who you ever touched was such a marvelous human gift to have and bestow.
Love and eternal peace Bill and Sheila xxx