Let me tell you a story about a beautiful lady.
It was a hot and humid Thursday afternoon. The Rugby Star and I were already over- and underwhelmed with our new school in Bahrain and we were itching for a little liquid relief from the heat and the madness. The nanny said she would gladly watch the girls for the afternoon and into the evening, so the RS and I hopped onto our golf cart, zoomed through the dusty neighborhood, and screeched to a stop at the local watering hole- aka the golf club.
Sitting at a table just outside the doors, we saw P and J, colleagues, but not yet friends. I’ll never forget their faces- they looked like they were thinking, ‘Oh shit, we’re going to have to talk to them.’ And I’m fairly certain our faces read the same.
I can stop and say honestly that I don’t remember what month this was- I wasn’t pregnant so it was after September, I know that much. But I have very few, if any, memories of P and J before this. They came into the school as newbies with us. J was the art teacher- the only upper school art teacher, as I was the only upper school music/drama teacher, so I’m sure we had been interacting, but not much, since I hadn’t started at the school officially. P was teaching 1st grade- I had little to no reason to talk to her.
We tentatively sat together and chatted in that get-to-know you way that beer, cocktails, free peanuts, and no dinner can bring about. We found ourselves laughing together and already commiserating over policies and lack-thereof’s at the new workplace. The RS and I stayed a little later than we planned and had to keep texting the nanny. P and J revealed that they were and had been trying for a baby for a while. I immediately started praying for their success.
I assumed it was a one-off- a chance meeting at the club… but when we showed up again the next Thursday afternoon, there they were. They didn’t look so apprehensive as we approached this time and we didn’t feel apprehensive.
It soon became ‘our thing’- Thursday afternoons at the golf club. We rarely missed one. Some afternoons we laughed and told each other stories of our families and our lives before. One day we played Apples to Apples late into the evening. Usually, though, we bitched. Oh, we bitched so hard. Our jobs were a joke. Colleagues were hateful, bosses were incompetent and the students we taught were lazy and disinterested. J, who was not afraid to stand up for himself, found himself on the receiving end of a vengeful and inexperienced principal- someone who would rather cut down his staff than learn from them. P was partnered with a teacher who seemed hell-bent on beating her down. The RS was worked to the ground and I was treated like an incompetent ‘little woman,’ probably because I had just recently birthed a child. It was not the stuff that dreams were made of. There were a lot of angry nights.
But there were happy ones, and through these Thursday afternoons, I came to know and trust, and love P and J. They were our friends. The girls, well, the Ladybug, started asking to go visit them. I often spent my prep periods in J’s room, discussing our shitty admin or what his art students were doing that day. I would seek P out just to say hi.
I was devastated when they said they were leaving at the end of our first year together. Devastated and jealous- they were getting out and we had to stay. There is a completely ridiculous story behind their reason for leaving, but that is not mine to tell. Suffice it to say, it was stupid and I don’t think they were treated fairly… but they left. We said a million goodbyes but promised to keep in touch. After all, they were moving back to England and we went to England once or twice a year- staying close would be a piece of cake.
Right. Because life.
P was diagnosed with bowel cancer not long after she finally had her lovely little baby girl. We Skyped several times throughout the years, but never could manage to meetup. Timing and distance and illness from one end or the other… and I knew. I knew as P’s cancer progressed that it was not going to get easier. We planned to go at Christmas this past year- had the dates set and our bags packed. But every family member managed to be sick at a different time during the whole three weeks. That didn’t feel like a good idea. We planned to go this summer, even after J announced on Facebook that the doctors had said there was nothing left for them to do… but we couldn’t make it happen. And I left England knowing that I wouldn’t have the chance to see my sweet friend again.
She was beautiful- her body and soul. She was kind and funny and had an amazing smile. She wanted her daughter in the way that only women who struggle to have a child can. She loved that little girl ferociously. She fought to stay alive for her husband and her daughter and for all the people who ever loved her. She faced cancer like a brave warrior princess. She was my friend. I know she is at peace now, no longer in pain.
Philippa, rest in peace. You will always be loved and you will always missed. Thank you for your friendship and your smile.
Send your thoughts and prayers up and out for J and their daughter, not for me. I am not asking for sympathy- this is not about me. I miss her, but more than that I want to honor her as the wonderful person she was.