My friend Briony passed away this morning. We met at swing about 18 months ago, I remember noticing her awesome vintage hairdo, and distinctive outfit - which I later learnt was just another thing she’d designed and made herself. She’d just moved back to Canberra to spend more time with her unwell dad, after 12 years in the fashion industry in Melbourne. When she said this to me it was a bit of a shock because I’d assumed she was younger than me and probably still in uni, maybe 22 or 23. I guess her quiet manner fooled me, although I’m not very good at guessing people’s ages anyway.
She was 35 and she had a series of tumours that were eventually too much for her, the last lot in her brain. Because of this, although clearly 35 is too young for anyone to go, at least she is free now, as her cousin, Alison, said to me.
Still too young, though.
Last time I saw her was the last weekend of October, the week before I left Canberra, when we went to a barbecue because Mistress Kate was in Canberra for the weekend, and it was the last chance for a lot of us to see MK before she heads to Sweden (next month now). I felt like I didn’t get to see Briony enough while she was sick, and I was trying really hard to find a way to hang out with her before I left Canberra. So I asked her what she could handle (always tired from radiotherapy etc), drove down to Tuggeranong and picked her up for the barbecue.
Usually when people die, you don’t get a chance to say goodbye, a nice, neat, perfect little goodbye, but I did, because I was moving overseas for the year and saying goodbye to everyone for the moment. With Briony, like everyone, I said I would see her next November. I knew I probably wouldn’t but I hoped I would anyway. I hugged her, she kissed me on the cheek, she walked across the carpark beside the lake to her mum's car. Said something normal and inconsequential, seeya doll. Perfect.
Anyway, that is my small comfort. I hope her family have some too, because they did the hard yards with her, and I don’t know if they got a nice, tidy goodbye.
I hold on to the small comforts because there are so many other things that make me sad. There are big things, like the thought that she was too young and it was such a tough time for her. There are little things, like, she loved Bal and she was just getting into it, I can’t help but think about all the dances she won’t have – I can imagine all us Canberra swingdancers, on our deathbeds, going ‘No I can’t die yet, just one more dance!’. Matt and I wanted to give her a private lesson / revision session but she was feeling a bit too ‘wobbly’. I never got to have a vintage-hairdos session with Briony and I’m willing to be that, like any seamstress, she has at least one wardrobe and probably a whole room stuffed with material waiting to be stitched up into something awesome.
I wish I could have told her in person that I thought and think all these things about her. That she was awesome. That I wished I could have had more time with her. That I wanted her to have more years, all the years the average person can expect to muck about with their lives in. But she never wanted to talk about dying with me, she always hoped she'd have another good day where she wasn't so tired. I respected that so I held my words until now, and trust she could tell and can tell now that I think all these things about her.
I try not to be too sad, because hell, I can get up and go to work today and walk down by the beach and go to yoga and have a lovely dinner at a restaurant before Matt and I stumble home, exhausted. What a great day. I can have an ordinary day and it’s the best day in the world. I’m appreciating it. If ordinary life gets boring, then I only have to decide what I want to do differently and I can go do it – like I did when I decided I wanted to move to East Timor for a year to take up a volunteer position.
But I miss Briony, and she won’t be there when I go back to Canberra and see everyone else. Like I said on Facebook, I miss you Briony, I’m so glad I knew you, I only wish it was much, much longer.