When the emergency is over…

By on Feb 20, 2018 in Blog Posts, Cancer | 10 comments

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My friend sent me this text yesterday: “Can you tell the English teacher that P is going to be horribly late because I had a work emergency?”

The friend in question is a specialist doctor. A work emergency for her is likely to involve saving lives. The teacher and I agree to a little envy at the notion of dealing with an emergency with is actually an emergency (as opposed to a child who’s sad because of his or her grades).

I’m genuinely surprised at my feelings because, after a year of having had my phone behave as an extension of my arm, the “emergency is imminent” time in my life is over (for now). I didn’t think I’d miss it.

For all the books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched I am unprepared for the “afterwards-ness” I’m experiencing. Hollywood doesn’t tell us about what our heroes do the day after the universe is saved. I suppose scrubbing out the stains in a hero’s cape isn’t a story.

In some respects it’s liberating: my phone has been left for hours at a time without me even being conscious of where it is. My Facebook feed (slower now I’ve deleted the folks who didn’t notice the death of my child) goes unchecked. I can no longer be relied upon to answer your text immediately.

It’s possible for someone, in our house, to get up in the night to relieve themselves without me reaching for the car keys.

But when Josh died so did the specialness of the situation. Practically speaking, hospital queues wont dissolve before us any more. Nurses wont know my name. Paperwork won’t magically disappear in the face of someone so sick and so brave.

Beyond the mundane, Josh was special and never more so than during his fight with cancer. He left us inspired, in awe of his courage and warmed by his spirit of positive determination. I confess: I basked in his reflected glory. I happily accepted your praise at raising such an amazing young man.

Without him my life is returning to normal. Not “normal” normal, obviously. How can losing a child ever be normal? But normal in the sense that in the last year what was important was crystal clear. Josh inspired me to be more, to do more (while also doing less), to be a better human being, to be more selfless and less egotistical.

As time goes, on I feel that dimming. The humdrum gets louder and things that are unimportant take up more space.

I miss the person I was when Josh was alive.


  1. Lucy

    20th February 2018

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    Pen, your blog while hopefully being carthatic for you, are amazing to read, so honest and raw. Big hugs as ever and remember you are amazing xxx

  2. Cheryl Kimmens Franke

    21st February 2018

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    Ah..but I think you are missing how much you inspire all of us with your ability to be in touch with your feelings through this process and with your ability to articulate those thoughts. Yes, there may be a “normalness” going on in your life but to me you, Penny, continue to be an an inspiration. You as an individual are amazing and I am grateful that the internet has brought you into my life.

  3. Alma

    21st February 2018

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    This is often the worst time. Hang in there – a new you will emerge. One that won’t take the place of old you, but that will stand beside her.

  4. Linda

    21st February 2018

    Post a Reply

    I always look forward to getting your blogs. I make a coffee and sit and read each one and then reflect on what you wrote. You really are amazing. Thanls forsharing your thoughts. Be gentle on yourself.

  5. Colleen

    22nd February 2018

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    Pen – we are here. Listening to you, thinking of you and relating to our own losses. Keep sharing as it helps us all ❤️

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