Like many of my tribe, I’ve always been a teeny bit obsessed by the social and personal column in the newspaper. Whilst normal people call this the births, marriages and deaths section, in our family this has long been known as the “hatched, matched and dispatched”.
It has been a measure of the years rolling by that my primary focus when browsing the HMDs has gradually shifted. As a tween, it was the bar and bat mitzvah pictures (particular the outfits and the hairstyles) in the Jewish Chronicle that attracted my attention. Gradually, as people’s grandparents began to pass away, I started to read the tributes in the dispatched columns. It was fascinating to piece together a life from the snippets in the notices. Old age and death felt so far away at that point. Almost before I knew it, it was the engagement announcements that became the most interesting – who did I know who was getting married and who were they marrying? And inevitably, as night follows day, it wasn’t long before friends were “sprogging up” and I became a critical reviewer of baby names in the births column.
I now seem to be at a very odd stage in my life, in that all forms of announcement have the potential for personal resonance. There is still a trickle of friends finishing their families. There is the occasional wedding. And yes, there are deaths too – not just in old age. The past few days have been like a snapshot of my own personal HMD column. It’s been the circle of life, writ large.
The news of Jojo’s death on Friday has prompted the most phenomenal outpouring of tributes and love. Jojo could have filled an entire newspaper with these messages, never mind a single column. So many people have been affected, so many people have expressed their love, respect and admiration for her. I have learnt so much about my mad ginger liver mets twin in reading these messages and have such tremendous respect for the amazing person that she was. Like many others, I find it very hard to come to terms with the notion that a young, vibrant, energetic woman can be there one minute and gone the next. There must surely be many echoes of her somewhere in the cosmos.
Jojo’s passing has left a gaping whole in my gang of cancer bitches. One seat at the table of seven is empty and can never be filled. But it is being kept warm. Just before Jojo died, Andrea found a tiny ginger kitten in her house. Our gang has called her Jojo Gingercat and she will forever remind us of her namesake. A new life – not necessarily one for the HMDs but nonetheless to be celebrated. Here she is:
There have been other new lives too. Friends have just had a little boy, reminding me of the birth of my own son, four and a half years ago. I will never have another child, a fact which I have still not completely come to terms with. In the pre Genghis days we hadn’t ruled out having a third. That possibility has been snatched away from me. I’m well aware that I am very fortunate to have two beautiful children – so many of my online community have been robbed of the chance of any kids by this horrid disease – but I resent the fact that my childbearing has been curtailed by illness rather than by choice. It has meant the death of the chance of life, and that stinks.
While that hope has died, another was rekindled at the weekend. A very dear and special friend married for the second time, to a very lovely and loving lady. Having both been unhappy for some time, their relationship offered them the chance of fulfilment once again. It was the first second wedding that I’ve been to and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I found just what I’d hoped for – an atmosphere of love, support, warmth, mutual respect and hope. I couldn’t be happier for my friends and wish them all the happiness in the world. Oh, and a very long time together before their story moves from the matched to the dispatched, of course.
Births, marriages and deaths. The circle of life. Welcome, baby. Congratulations, friends. And rest in peace, Jojo.