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Friends in need -- friends indeed

After the funeral, my friend Nicole whisked me away to hers and Joost's as she didn't think I should be on my own, having just lost my best friend. That's Nicole all over: she takes charge, has done ever since we first met on a train going to Italy way back in the cold winter months of 1985. She was my closest friend throughout my years at university, and for a long time after, until we suddenly and inexplicably lost touch some time at the beginning of this century. There was the annual Christmas card but no direct contact until suddenly last summer, when she sent me a card asking if we could meet. In a Japanese restaurant in Amsterdam, an emotional reunion followed.

My friends mean the world to me, and I am absurdly loyal to them -- but never clingy. I'll often go off and do my own thing, and I accept that they go off and do theirs as well. It just means we have that much more to talk about when we do catch up with one another again. However, sometimes life gets in the way and you don't see each other for a long, long time; and that's sort of what happened to Nicole and me. But as I said, we've been in regular contact again since last summer, and it seemed natural to call her as soon as I'd heard the news about Peronne. After all, Nicole and Joost knew her as well, albeit slightly, as someone on the periphery of their own circle of friends. Anyway, as soon as I'd blurted out my news, Nicole decided I was to come and stay with her and her family directly after the funeral.

And so it was that after 7 years (or almost), I caught my first glimpse of Joost as he was pottering about in the kitchen preparing his signature dish and my favourite, peanut soup; and I can't describe how happy I was to see him absorbed in this mundane task. You'll remember that earlier this year, I begged for your prayers and good wishes as he was to undergo brain surgery for the removal of a massive tumour. And there he was, all strong and healthy looking, greying at the temples and with the rest of his black hair growing back across his scalp, almost succeeding in hiding the scar running from his ear to the top of his head and down into his neck, but otherwise unchanged. His smile was the same, too, as he came over and enveloped me in a bear hug.

After the children had been put to bed, we had dinner and sat around the fire and talked for a long time. The next morning, Nicole and I took the children to school, then went back for a communal breakfast. On her way to work, she dropped myself and her husband off in town, where I spent an hour and a half window shopping while Joost had to keep to his physiotherapy appointment (his surgery has left him half-blind and partially paralysed down his left side). I met up with him after he'd finished and as the weather was fantastic, we had lunch al fresco at a little restaurant Joost recommended. Because it was such a nice day, he suggested we go to the town's 'statue garden', which is as the name implies, a garden full of statues. The plants and flowers there all have special meaning too, but unfortunately neither I nor Joost are particularly well-acquainted with the language of plants. Luckily, a friendly gardener helped us out a bit. The garden belongs to the town's RC church, and the statues are all bronzes representing figures from the Old Testament, several saints, a Pieta and a Stations of the Cross. The garden spills over into the cemetery, where we visited Nicole's brother Richard's grave; he died a few years back from a parachute jump gone horribly wrong. Hours later, we returned to the house and made ourselves a big pot of tea, never for a minute stopping to reconnect and enjoy each other's company. Then, in the early evening, I took the train back home, feeling so much better for having spent so much time with people who mean so much to me.

I am bearing up under the loss of my friend, although I am still incredibly sad. Jobsworth sent me home this afternoon, after my tear-stained face persuaded him that perhaps I shouldn't be at work just yet. Well, what do you know? He can be quite decent when he wants to be, too.

ETA: for those not well-versed in Dutch: the name Joost is pronounced Yoast. It's basically the Dutch version of Jocelyn.

Comments

( 19 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
curiouswombat
Mar. 16th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
I am glad to know that Joost is doing so well - a wee ray of light in the sadness of Peronne's death.
gamiila
Mar. 16th, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC)
I am immensely grateful to have seen for myself that Joost is recovering nicely (Nicole had told me he was doing exceptionally well many times in the last few weeks, but seeing really is believing in this case).
deborahw37
Mar. 16th, 2007 07:41 pm (UTC)
Friends make everything better, I'm glad that Joost is doing so well .
gamiila
Mar. 16th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC)
Friends make everything better

They do, don't they? As do you, by being here. ;-)

As for Joost, he's well aware that he's living on borrowed time; but as he said to me, he knew with absolute certainty it wasn't his time yet as they wheeled him into the OR, and he still has this feeling today.
deborahw37
Mar. 16th, 2007 08:18 pm (UTC)
Joost sounds like an amazing guy and I hope he borows a lot more time yet!
gamiila
Mar. 16th, 2007 10:46 pm (UTC)
From your mouth fingertips to God's ear eye.
xionin
Mar. 16th, 2007 11:15 pm (UTC)
very good to know that joost is doing alright.

and well done jobsworth, understanding that you need time to mourn.

hugs all around, especially to you dear
gamiila
Mar. 17th, 2007 07:36 am (UTC)
((hugs back))

There's something quite encouraging in Joost's recuperation; something to remind you that miracles can occur in small things, and can be all the more precious for that.
suze2000
Mar. 17th, 2007 12:15 am (UTC)
It's really wonderful that you have friends like this at this time. Also, it's nice to take comfort in simple domesticity - even if it is someone else's life you're participating in for a while.

It's very hard to know when to go back to work after a bereavement. I actually went back to work the day after my sister died. At the time I worked in a spacious, quiet lab, and was able to be alone with my tears when they came. And still continue working, which I found very therapeutic in terms of creating a distraction from my grief. However, if you work in an office, I imagine it's hard to get a space to yourself and well done Jobsworth for doing the right thing and sending you home.
gamiila
Mar. 17th, 2007 07:46 am (UTC)
I came in thinking I'd probably be OK, and I was, getting on with the administrative side to my job ...but it was the constantly ringing phone that did me in.

It's what annoys me at home too: all those blasted telesales people that keep trying to sell me insurance . They're annoying all year round, but especially now, and I shouldn't have to ask them to respect my privacy at a time like this.
suze2000
Mar. 17th, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, when I don't want to be bothered, I disconnect the phone from the wall. If people want me, they'll use my mobile.
enigmaticblues
Mar. 17th, 2007 02:50 am (UTC)
*hugs* I'm glad you had friends who could be there for you and whisk you away. You'll continue to be in my prayers.
gamiila
Mar. 17th, 2007 07:46 am (UTC)
Thank you; that means a lot to me.
dalmeny
Mar. 17th, 2007 08:12 am (UTC)
I'm glad you have friends to help look after you when you're mourning. Thinking of you.
gamiila
Mar. 17th, 2007 08:20 am (UTC)
Thank you.
anonypooh
Mar. 17th, 2007 09:58 am (UTC)
beautiful friendships and great to hear about Joost's recovery :)

I must apologise for my computer going and boiling it's own brain in bleach and cutting me off from the internet completely last night before I could even stop talking nonsense ...very rude .. but possibly for the best?! ;)
gamiila
Mar. 17th, 2007 05:40 pm (UTC)
That's OK -- did you get everything you need for the trip today?
diachrony
Mar. 17th, 2007 05:46 pm (UTC)
True friends are indeed treasures. I'm glad you reconnected with Nicole and got to see Joost his healthy self. You made some lovely new memories even during a sad time, and that's a good thing.

((hugs))
gamiila
Mar. 18th, 2007 12:25 am (UTC)
You made some lovely new memories

I suppose I did. It was a lovely day.

((hugs back))
( 19 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )

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