Its been six weeks since I said goodbye to my oldest and dearest friend who fought various forms of cancer for over six years. Her family asked me to say the eulogy at her funeral. It was difficult to sum up a person who had been part of my life for over four decades. I’m sharing what I said as she was a quite achiever and battler and I miss her. Thank you for sharing my therapy.
It is easy to make friends but old friends are years in the making.
When I told people I had been asked to do this they said it would be a hard thing for me to do.
It’s not hard. A good friend of mine showed me what hard was and how to take it on; head on with no complaint. This is not hard as I know once it is done, it is done. I only have to do it once.
This is difficult.
That friend had an inner strength that could have powered the world if you were able to harness it and courage beyond anyone I’ve ever met. She did what she had to do and took things one-step at a time but she always looked forward and never dwelled on the past. She was an inspiration.
Daphne and I met in primary school. Year 2 in fact, she corrected me recently on that point, and we pretty much were part of each other’s lives ever since. We had so much in common. We were at the same school. We were both from big families, hers bigger than mine. We both had lots of big sisters and we were both the quite kids in the class. There were differences too such as she had a brother. I didn’t have one of those and when I asked my mum and dad if I could have a big brother they said no.
I’m pretty sure at that time she was already an aunt too. As I was having difficulty understanding why I couldn’t have an elder brother I simply couldn’t get my head around that at all.
I got to know each and every member of her family as she proudly spoke about them. You all meant the world to her. I know the last few years frustrated her as she didn’t want to burden or cause any of you pain. I also know one of the hardest things she faced as result of her ongoing treatments of the past years was not being about to see your mum for long periods. She didn’t complain however, she had to do what she had to do but family always came first to her and she loved you all very much.
I am deeply indebted to Janet and Nerida for allowing me to be there to say goodbye. Today I see her off knowing she is at peace, no more fighting necessary, and that she knew she was loved.
My clearest memory in the South Tamworth Public School schoolyard would be at the beginning of our friendship. We had decided to play hopscotch and shared the responsibility of drawing up the hopscotch grid in the dirt. When we were finished it was easy to tell who did which bit. The wonky squares were my best effort while Daphnes’ were ruler straight lines with perfect angles to make a correct shaped box. She told me she was a year older than me and that my hand-eye coordination and something called fine motor skills would improve with age. She knew this because her sister had told her so and then we laughed when we had to land sideways in my rectangle, borderline triangle, drawings that made the game more of a challenge.
Although she preferred everything to be as it should be she was never afraid of a challenge, which in hindsight could be why she put up with me for so long.
She put up with a lot too. We survived primary and high school and TAFE together and made many other friends along the way. Some of the important ones are here today.
When it came to the other people we knew, however, we had a system. I remembered faces and Daphne remembered names. It was just how it worked.
In our late teenage years, we decided to take a holiday. We both wanted to see the country we lived in before traveling overseas so we could tell people what Australia was like outside Tamworth. I had my driver’s license and a car so we headed to the Warrumbungles. We camped in a beautiful spot of the national park and enjoyed the peace and quiet that only those places can provide.
We visited the observatory, mini world and decided, while we were close, we would do a day trip to the Dubbo Zoo. It was a good plan as we both wanted to see the zoo and all was going well until we were heading back to Coonabarabran and the car engine went bang.
We rolled into a roadside rest area and there the car stopped.
I confess I might have lost the holiday mood as I opened the hood and stared blankly at the offending motor. I may have also said a few words a lady shouldn’t say when it dawned on me I had no idea what I was looking for never lone how to fix it if I found it.
Daphne, however, took charge and went for help. She had spotted a council vehicle parked in the rest stop and went off to find the driver rather than listen to my unproductive bad language. When she found him he was looking at a tree, which she later told me she thought was odd, and proceeded to tap him on the shoulder and politely ask if he could help us.
The poor man. She frightened the daylights out of him and he was still red-faced from being caught urinating, el natural, when he got to my broken down car. He could no more fix the car than I could and he couldn’t even look at Daphne but he sent the NRMA out to us when he returned to Coonabarabran. Our holiday finished early with a night stay at the local pub where we met some friendly locals who knew the council worker. They laughed with us.
We met lots of great people, experienced love for the first time and what it was like to lose it, had good times and bad, but I always knew she was there for me as I hope she knew I was for her.
There were times when we didn’t see each other for a while but when we caught up again we just had more to talk about including what we had been doing, what our families were up to and pretty much everything about ourselves.
It is safe to say Daphne knew more about me than any other person on this earth. She has taken with her stories and secrets about me that no-one will ever know. I hope she continues to keep them too as I don’t want a bad rap before I get a chance to explain myself first. I think she will. Please?
She taught me so much, the most important lesson, however, was how to draw straight lines in the dirt and how to make the most of them if they don’t quite work out the way I had planned.
There was a time when she may not have liked the company I was in but she refused to be pushed away by them and she stuck by me, never judged, and helped were ever she could.
I could stand here and talk for hours and still not cover half the adventures we had, trials we overcome together and good times we shared but that would be boring and I don’t want to make anyone cry. She would be angry with me for doing either of those things. I didn’t see her angry very often but I always felt sorry for the person who made her that way. A quiet, compassionate person’s anger is something to fear and even though curse words never made it past her lips the lash of her tongue was painful.
Daphne was a good listener, a voice of reason and a straight talker. Totally stubborn but always selflessly caring. She was a second mum to my children, godmother to one, and the giver of “cool” gifts and chocolate.
She will be dearly missed as it is easy to make friends but old friends are years in the making.