Everyone must stand alone

Taking the wise words of the great scribe Madonna, 'life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone' I wonder if it's true. I don't mean to be frivolous but I hope we don't have to stand alone. I fear sometimes we do.

This morning I have been to the funeral of a friend from my days in Blackpool. She 'stood alone' in that she was unique and she 'stood alone' in that she was single minded and inspiring. Sadly, it seems she 'stood alone' in her dying days too. Her desire to keep quiet the severity of her cancer from people whilst keeping her children close must have been a factor. But still, to spend your last days in a hospice with so many friends in the dark is shocking.

Emma burst onto the scene around nine years ago as a bar(wo)man at the Norbreck Castle Hotel. She was everything I like in a person now but, nothing I liked back then. Immature, opinionated, silly, lazy, bossy and scarily capable. At first I didn't like her, but secretly never let on. She was popular and I was Marmite, best to keep her sweet. But, then I grew into her... I learned to temper the serious with the silly and find that balance. I became her biggest fan. It had just been simple jealousy but her charm had battered off the green eyed monster. We became two hotel terrors, some fool had made us senior staff so we subsequently spent hours smoking, chatting, drinking. We still delivered when we needed to - running multiple function bars, multiple events and a small army of staff. We were still young, Emma younger still, but nothing was beyond us. Together, we were invincible.

But then, The summer season ended and the temps all went back to college/Poland/uni leaving a skeleton staff. From here we rarely worked together and the fun of it all was gone. Then, shortly after that, so was I. Emma and I would never again be so close.

One day I was working in the Body Shop (one of my blink-and-you-miss-it jobs) when Emma came in with her boyfriend Ben. They announced that Emma was pregnant and both were visibly excited. It was the first time anyone had told me they were pregnant and I was elated... I wanted to be involved in every bit of the pregnancy and beyond but those fantasies never become reality. By time Ethan was born I had left Blackpool and Emma and I had less and less to talk about.

Maybe a year later, I remember a jacket potato lunch with Emma and Ethan, she was grown up, still charming and funny but I think I'd changed. It wasn't as fluid and relaxed as I'd hoped. I don't know why. Things thawed when I visited them at home and Emma and I would giggle when the booze was flowing. It wasn't the friendship I'd hoped for but at least I still saw her, Ethan and Ben.

The last five years I'm guilty of not trying hard enough and even since Emma became ill the best I did was send her magazines. You can't hug a 'woman's weekly' and a cross word book isn't going to hold your hand when you need it. I regret not doing more and leaving Emma to 'stand alone' when she should have been surrounded by her friends. Her choice or my selfishness?

As if to show her how much love she had inspired, today the crematorium was so full the vicar had to ask people to shuffle into the pews. He gestured like he was trying to land a plane. We entered to 'So What!' by Pink and the tone was truly set. Smiles between the tears. It was really 40 minutes of reflection. Thinking what Emma meant to me and knowing that she lives on in her two beautiful children, Ethan and Neve.

I'm closing the door on the sadness of today and remembering my Emma, behind the bar, line dancing. Badly. The intervening years may have pulled us apart but my memories will always hold me close.

Dedicated to EMD