As many of you know, my friend/colleague passed away last friday from cancer. She was 36 years old and taken too soon. I tweeted about her last week upon hearing the news that she had passed away as I wanted her to not be a nameless statistic that cancer had taken.
The past week has felt like a lifetime has passed but tomorrow morning her fiancee, her family and friends will say farewell to Natalie. I have cried many times over the last 2.5 years for Natalie from the anger that she was diagnosed to upon hearing she lost her battle and I know tomorrow at her funeral will be no exception to floods of tears.
Although I personally do not know her loving partner nor her family, all of us from work agreed that we wanted to attend her funeral as we want her loved ones to know (by our presence there tomorrow) how much we love Nat and how we will never forget her.
When people pass away you generally hear ” oh they were such a nice person” and I am no different here with Nat. She TRULY was one of the nicest people I had the privilege to meet. She would LOVE to hear gossip but she never said anything nasty about anyone and quite often had a simplistic view on why people would behave in the way they do. Nat never argued, name called nor can any of us think of anyone uttering a bad word about her in the whole time she worked with us- You all know how bitchy Nurses can be too!.
I have found myself saying over the past week that If anyone was to be granted a miracle during such a brave battle during their cancer fight it was beautiful Natalie. Nat radiated such a gorgeous energy, did her work and she never complained.
During her later stages of her short beautiful life, suffering excruciating and debilitating pain Nat never wallowed in self pity and like the hurdles she had faced previously, she came to accept that death was coming for her and she was not frightened. This did strangely bring a slight sense of comfort to me knowing she had come to terms with death and I can assure you I personally couldn’t guarantee that I would be so gracious. This is a testament to the amazing traits of such an amazing character.
About 3 months ago, I saw Natalie at work. I was told she was coming to clean out her locker and she had resigned a couple of months before that. The day she emptied her locker I knew that day would be the final time I would see her.
I was preparing myself to see her, Nat had ended her chemo and radiation as it was taking its toll on her body and pain of it was unbearable. I was walking the corridors not making any eye contact with anyone at the risk of someone seeing me hold back the tears. I had no words prepared and I was so scared as to what to say.
Without any warning I turned the corner I see Nat walking towards me, she seemed vague, was looking around the corridors and making her way to the exit. I was quiet and stood still … I didn’t speak but Natalie looked into my eyes and merely said… “Craig!… Give me a hug” .. a hug I will NEVER forget and there is almost some humour to that hug…
About a year before hand I was standing at the staff allocation board and I saw Nat walking towards me she veered off and stood right next to me .. I saw out the corner of my eye that Natalie was looking up at me… as I turned to her I say ” hey Nat! what are you up to” .. She looked straight into my soul ( im sure ) and she said ” Nothing, I just have this feeling to hug you” without hesitation I said opened my arms and said “hug me now” …. ” hmmmmm Nah Craig the moment has passed” .. I have to admit I was kind of bummed she opted out as I would have hugged her ten times a day if she asked.
As Natalie hugged me that last time I was immediately reminded (mid hug) to that year before and now I was finally getting my hug I had so desperately wanted and waited a year for. When Natalie had first left us to have cancer related surgery I was in Europe and had learnt of her diagnosis/ surgery after I had returned. I was shattered for her then and when she returned she not once ever asked for sympathy and her ability to get back to work with such ease never prompted me to even consider pitying her but my admiration for her courage and her strength further sky rocketed.
Despite her now inability to have children, Natalie just simply responded ” maybe it wasn’t meant for me”. I cursed every religious Icon for allowing this to happen to such a saintly girl ( I STILL curse them) . How she felt really about the cancer diagnosis I don’t think I will ever know as Natalie just focused on everyday and accepted that this had happened to her. She amazed me and continued to do so until her last day on this planet.
We were all to have a chance to lunch with Natalie before she passed but readmission into the hospice prevented the luncheon to happen and she died the day before we were due to meet. I had heard many amazing stories of her partner who cared for Natalie and was an incredible man by her side all the way. It always made my heart swell to know such love was with her all that time. Natalie deserved this love. If I allow myself I let myself go to that place of acknowledging that If it happened to me now I wouldn’t have that partner by my side and that breaks my heart. I do however remind myself that at least there are real men out there like Natalie’s partner who do exist and do not runaway from such trauma and heartache.
Just to leave you with an example of how truly amazing and selfless she was till the end- a close friend had gone to see her in the hospice and our friend ( who has know Nat the longest and visited her every week for months and months) eventually broke down in front of Nat and cried her heart out. She could see Natalie’s decline and she just couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. Tammy apologised for crying and said to Nat “this is not about me, I know it” .. Natalie looked at our friend and concerned about her sobbing friend… said ” this IS about you too” …
I do take comfort in the hope that she is with her beautiful mother now somewhere and cancer/pain free. I just cannot shake that feeling that she should be HERE cancer and pain free.
It was awful for many of us who did not get to see her in the hospice before her death but she will never be forgotten nor will her amazing hug she let me finally have.