I did my ten minute morning meditation as usual and when I finished I felt happy, ready to face the day ahead. I put on some music on my iPad and sang along while I got dressed and put on some make up.
In the car I got a phone call. It was from a colleague from work, someone I like very much. She is a few years younger than me, a great professional but above all an incredible human being, very ethical and with an amazing sense of humour. But today her voice was tense, and she told me she had some bad news to tell me: she has just discovered she has a very severe form of thyroid cancer, and she has to be operated on without delay. I was in shock, as she went on telling me she is in very good hands (as far as doctors are concerned), that after the operation she will undergo a very up to date treatment – a mix of radio and chemo therapy that will require her to be in quarantine for a few days, but has no nasty side effects such as hair loss – and finally that she has been told by her doctor to have a bag ready to go to hospital at any minute, as – here she said it with her usual sense of humour – when you are having a baby and have to be prepared for the waters to break at any moment.
There was not much I could say to her but that I will pray for her and that I will be wishing very strongly that all goes well and she may have a quick recovery. And she said yes; please pray for me, I’ll be very grateful if you do.
I must confess I was in tears as I parked the car in the office building. I tried to compose myself and went up, but I could not help thinking of her.
Having to work certainly has its advantages and one of them is that you become so absorbed in what you do that time flies and you forget about everything! At least this is what happens to me and when I looked at my watch it was time to go out for lunch. I had scheduled a business lunch with a colleague from another company who is from Brittany, a very nice lady who last year gave me some very useful tips when I was planning my trip there.
There is one thing we women do very well, and that is to mix business with pleasure. We discussed our business subjects while we ate but as we were brought fruit we had already finished so she asked me about my trip to her native land – as in fact we hadn’t had the chance to get together since then.
I told her I had loved Brittany and described the places I had been to. Somehow we ended up talking about the history and legends of Brittany, and she commented on something that I had also noticed: Brittany being a maritime land, the dangers of a perilous sea are ever present in the life, dreams and nightmares of its inhabitants. Many terrible shipwrecks on its coasts have given way to macabre stories such as one that tells how the dead come from the sea and invade the land on a certain night of the year, years after years, century after century, never being able to rid themselves of this terrible fate. I remember reading this particular story in one of the books of Breton tales I bought there, and she commented that Death is ever present in their stories. Then she told me a very sad story, that of a cousin of hers who used to take her fishing in his boat. He used to go and fish sea bass that can only be found in very rough waters. So much that she recalled going with him once and spending the whole day seasick! But then, she told me, one day many years later he was fishing in that area, alongside several other fishing boats, and there was a huge wave that engulfed his boat – it was so sudden and so violent that the other boats simply stopped seeing his boat and never saw it again. The boat and even his lifejacket appeared many weeks later and many kilometres away, but his body was never found.
Then talk derived to more personal matters. Both of us being divorced with young adults as children we also share the fact that we have not remarried but are in stable relationships. What I didn’t know was that her boyfriend had in fact been her teenage sweetheart, whom she had been dating when they were fifteen. I found it amazing that they had found each other after all these years only to discover they had never stopped loving each other. What an incredibly romantic story! In fact, she told me, they had never lost touch with each other…but then she went on to tell me, in an endearing way, that soon after meeting each other again he confessed he had cancer. Far from being deterred in her intention to live this relationship with him, she was strong in her resolve, and she stuck to him. She said very clearly “We want to make the most of our time together, whatever that time is”. And she looked serenely happy, and so wise, with the wisdom that only the years can bring, allowing us to understand that life is a collection of moments, and as long as those moments are worth living, we must live them to the full, without fearing what may happen. Yes he has cancer, she said. He has been well for a few years, now it has come back. I will be there to love him and support him, and we hope for the best. And this beautiful, loving relationship is in fact a very “modern” one, as they live far apart: she in Lisbon and he in France. They get together for weekends and holidays, but their love is strong – after all it’s a love that has survived many years, many circumstances, and many changes.
I walked back to the office, a March day but a cold one, windy and grey. But somehow I felt good. What a nice lunch, what a lovely story. Again I went in and forgot the world outside as I immersed myself in my work. At 7.30 pm I decided I had had enough. In the car I listened to my favourite radio program, M80 – as one might gather it is about music of the eighties – and soon I was singing along with “More than this” by Roxy Music and “Careless Whisper” by George Michael, two songs I absolutely loved and still do.
When I got home the boys were sitting on the sofa together, watching the film of Afonso’s rugby match last Sunday, where he was at his very best – and what a proud mother I was when everyone at the club congratulated me on my son’s performance – and I sat down to watch the game with them, our heads together and our laughs as we watched the amazing energy he displayed as he tackled his adversaries.
After dinner I sat down. I feel tired. Today was just an ordinary day or perhaps not. Aren’t all days in our lives extraordinary? So many things happen. The terrible news that my colleague is so ill, the legends and stories of Brittany, the tender love story I learned during lunchtime, my totally absorbing work, watching the film of a rugby match…things that apparently have nothing to do with each other, but for the fact that they were all part of my day. Even if ordinary, it was a precious day in my life.
And tonight, I will pray that my sick friend may live to see many more ordinary days. I know she will not ask for anything else.