A very good friend of mine passed away recently and I’m not quite sure how best to handle it.
Part of me is incredibly sad and upset that I never really got a chance to say goodbye but another part of me wants to write about the special-ness of her, the things that made her special to me and the things about her that i’m glad to have experienced.
Sandra moved out to Spain with her husband Gordon. They moved into the house across the way from us and from the moment we had our first conversation over the terraces, I knew she was a special person who I needed in my life. My mum and I were on our terrace talking about whatnot and having a nose (the good thing about Spain was EVERYONE was nosy) when she came out onto her terrace dragging one of the biggest Pot Plants I had ever seen, this appealed to me as I immediately thought they were hippies and when she saw us gawping she just completely straight faced said “oh, it’s for my tennis elbow” in a really strong Scots accent. I was charmed, instantly.
Over the following weeks and months a lot changed in my life, our house, the first Home I have ever felt comfortable in was sold, my parents were moving elsewhere in Spain and I was due to be moving back to the UK to try and make a life, but for those few weeks I was as it were alone in Competa, I become a very frequent house guest over at theirs, scratching at the door, making them laugh at my awkwardness, sharing wine, food – she made some of the best curries ever (no mum, not better than yours but pretty good nonetheless!) listening to Gordon’s songs, stories and generally just becoming friends with some really wonderful people. They began helping me shape into a better person, lending me books on poetry, introducing me to Aleister Crowley, showing me art and playing music I had never experienced and I do believe, opening my mind to new possibilities. Despite the education I’d received in both Spain and the UK, I felt genuinely torn about my future and not at all sure what I was going to do, during that time and moving forward in life, I don’t think they ever appreciated how grateful I was to them both for accepting me and just letting me be me.
Over the next 10 – 15 years, our relationship changed but only as far as I’m concerned for the better, I moved back to England and used to call her every week, same as my mum and despite everything, she was always pushing me, to be better, to be brave, to be honest and become a person I was proud of. She was always like a cheerleader, no matter what the stupid scheme was, she was behind it. I honestly think, even if i’d suggested I was going to rob a bank, she’d have probably told me that it would be good for me to be pushing myself forward more! I’m not saying she was a driving force but it certainly helped me (especially as I was so uncomfortable with the person I am) to be less uncomfortable. She was almost always the first to sponsor me for my madcap schemes and for getting the word out. She appreciated the madness in me and was an excellent influence – not always good or bad, just a great influence.
During the last 10 years, I have suffered quite badly from depression, I was in a really bad place for a long time and I know that a lot of people were worried about me and wanted to help me become better, to be more the person I used to be but she was good at just letting me be sad if needed. I think my mum was the best support I had whilst I was down, but I was lucky to have Sandra as I could talk to her in a different way, I hated telling my mum how much I hated myself and would never have dreamt of telling her how often I thought about dying, as to see her hurt – even just by my words, actually hurts me. Makes me feel a bad human to not be able to hold myself together, to take away her worry and Sandra was someone who despite the fact I’m sure me saying those things wasn’t fun for her, she would just take it, and try to help me. She was even the one who if I missed a call or email appointment (when I was really at my worst, she would ring every Tuesday at 7pm and if I wasn’t there to pick up, boy would I get an ear bashing!!) would hound me till she knew I was safe.
Gordon developed Alzheimer’s and sadly it took the person who was Gordon away, from all of us over the years before he died. I know that it took a lot out of her and yet, despite everything she went through with him, she tried to care and love him till the end. It was lovely to see and another great example (very much like my parents) of a couple being together and I think they would have been together forever. It gave me hope for someone in my life eventually like that, something I never really realised how much I wanted but after this much time, a companion, a partner is what everyone needs I feel.
I was really lucky to still have Sandra about because every time I went to Spain, I always stayed with her, she would try to stuff me full, gave me complete liberty and was a wonderful person to just relax with. She was abrasive, and could be very offensive when she wanted but that’s what made her, her. She had 2 cats, Luna and Sol and they were also incredibly good to go and visit – she said Sol used to love my boobs!
I am angry at myself for many things, and unfortunately, a year or so ago, Sandra told me she had been diagnosed with cancer. As soon as I heard, my first thought was to go and see her, to share, to hug her and tell her how much I loved her, how important she is to me and all of the emotions she had helped me deal with over so many years. She was very quick to tell me not to bother, that it wasn’t that serious and we did still talk and the like on a probably close to monthly basis and she would send me updates from the care centre as to how she was doing. I was glad to hear that June of this year would be her last session and she came home to Competa after that, as far as I knew, cancer free and fighting to live life again…….this was her last photo she sent me from the hospital:
Anyway, she put me off time and time again and once she was home, the attitude was to try and get over there soon ish, but there was no pressing need.
Unfortunately that wasn’t to be. I was at work a couple of weeks ago and within 5 minutes, got 4 messages from people saying something along the lines of “sorry about Sandra”….I hadn’t realised but she’d passed away and her sons (also great supporters of me – through her nagging i’m certain) were trying to organise her funeral. The only positive I took from it was that as far as I know, from the last chat we had, her cancer had been beaten and to be honest, if I knew Sandra at all, that would have made her feel better. She was a scrappy fighter and I think the fact that she had beaten it would have given her a sense of pleasure.
I am also glad that the last time we spoke on the phone or via message or via email we said “I love you” to each other. I may say those words too much, but if nothing else, I am glad I got to say that. You never know when it’s going to be too late, so maybe it’s better to be more open with your feelings, make sure that those who are important to you are aware of it. Life is too short.
I’ve lost some very important people in my life, and a fair amount of less important people but sadly, it’s those you care about who you think are unstoppable that when they leave suddenly, it’s a real kick in the stomach. I genuinely miss her and hate the fact that I was so far away so couldn’t go to her funeral or for that matter tell her all the things I wanted her to know.
I cannot tell anyone how to deal with grief, I cannot tell anyone what is the right or wrong thing to do but I have realised as the years have passed, the best way I can keep people’s memories alive for me is to talk about them, to tell funny stories and to not wallow in the sadness.
I’m not sure how I will deal with this moving forward, I’m gutted that, of the people who I wanted Mr A to meet in Competa, there are now 2, instead of 3. Makes it less likely he’ll ever come out there with me and despite everything, it makes me less likely to go over too. I’m not sure I want to go and not be able to see her, to see the cats and to relish the little house she had. I am still lucky that one of my best friends of my life lives there but I think even she understands right now that the thought of being there without Sandra is too painful. I miss her so much. I know I won’t ever have the joy of someone like that in my life ever again, and that is sad.
A thing she pushed me to do, from beyond the grave:
Sorry, I don’t mean that insensitively but I know this (for me) proves she’s still about in one way or another.
I was a DragWorld Uk a couple of weeks ago – the week after she passed away – and was telling my friend about her, the strength, the anger, the “glaswegianess” as we were about to leave for the night. We happened to walk past a queen’s booth to see a really short queue and as this was Alaska – someone who I adore – I had to get in the queue. We waited and the excitement started to build. Unfortunately her manager then arrived to tell everyone in the queue that to get an autograph or photo, you would have to purchase something from the booth beforehand, this was about thirty quid for a photo, which is just extreme. My friend and I were ready to skulk away and just miss out when the group in front of us erupted in a loud chatter of Glasgow accents, basically saying they wouldn’t adhere to this and if the convention wanted to chuck them out, so be it, they would make a scene and make it worse than it ever could be. As soon as I heard this, I heard her, telling me to not be daft and scared away, to stand my ground and just see what happened.
So this happened:
And I didn’t have to buy anything!!
There’s so much I would like to say about Sandra but honestly, there’s nothing I can say without crying now. I’m so grateful to have known her, to have had that Scottish Granny influence and to know that she loved me. I’m most grateful for that I think.
She has given me lots of memories and I hope that, if you reading this lose someone, you will be able to celebrate the positives, without solely focusing on the negatives.
I thought as I finished this off, I’d share the last pic I took of Sandra, when I left her in Competa and took the coach back to Malaga Airport probably about 7 years ago. This is the image of her I hope will stay with me forever.
RIP SANDRA WILSON. I MISS YOU AND LOVE YOU. YOU WERE ONE OF A KIND.