In memory of Julie

Today I had lunch with my friend Andy, who really only became my friend when his sister, my schoolfriend lost her life; so today as we remembered Julie and her passing 3 years ago, we also celebrated 3 years of friendship. I wrote about Julie year ago, which we agreed over lunch I should re-post as we cherish our memories, and celebrate the influence she continues to have on our lives, as we embrace it as a privilege.

Good morning everyone! I woke early…again, my busy brain whirring into action at 6am. I really must learn to get to bed earlier, but it’s easier said than done when life is such fun. I had breakfast, before returning to bed with my book; currently Dr.Jill Bolte Taylor’s autobiographical account of surviving an aneurysm, ‘My Stroke of Insight’. The book was recommended to me after I posted a quote on this page, some time ago. I’m sorry I don’t remember who it was, because I would like to say ‘thank you’ personally; I’m enjoying it immensely.

I got up again, craving a coffee, so quickly threw on some clothes, to visit my local café for my special soy latte. It’s a cool grey morning, and as I stepped out the door, the dampness and autumnal smells hit me. I noticed a cobweb on the geraniums, clinging tenaciously to life in my window boxes. The fine dew on the web delineated the intricate pattern, held together by the fine delicate strands, so vulnerable and easily broken. The familiar metaphor of the web we weave in our lives was on my mind as I crossed the road, devoid of the usual bustle and traffic so early on a Sunday. This metaphor was discussed eternally in school English literature classes, over George Elliot’s Middlemarch, and I still have fond memories of the time spent contemplating concepts we were too young to truly appreciate then. My heart ached slightly at the fragile dry leaves littering the pavement, as the wind caught them, playfully dancing briefly. Sometimes the smallest thing can trigger a sentimental response, but today I am particularly susceptible since it is the 2nd anniversary of the loss of an old school friend.

We knew each other all through our school lives, even changing to the same primary schools when our families moved houses. She was a constantly cheeky minx right through that character forming time, hers being decidedly naughty in the nicest sense, a fun loving monkey. I can still see her impish grin, a slight roll of her eyes in mock innocence and hear her infectious laughter when I think of her. Julie died suddenly at 38 yrs when struck with a fatal aneurysm, leaving behind her soul mate husband and two adorable sons (6 years and 6 months at the time). We had lost touch for several years after she had moved to continue her nursing career and start her family in Florida. We met again on her last visit to the UK in the May before her death, a hilarious rendezvous where we discovered that none of us had changed much over lunch with another school friend Zena. We had giggled like schoolgirls again, revisiting our shared histories whilst cooing over her beautiful baby; the same dry humour and wit punctuating the air with innuendo as we drew disapproving looks from other more sedate diners.

By chance I had the opportunity to visit West Palm where she lived the following November, and it was whilst at a Dolphins game with plans to see Julie the next day, that Zena rang tearfully from the UK to tell me the devastating news. I remember the disbelief I felt whilst stuck in post match traffic jams with several guys I hardly knew (it was a corporate trip), and who certainly couldn’t relate to my grief or loss. I spent a week in a fog of bereavement, as I soaked up the Florida sunshine and took long walks along the Atlantic shore, contemplating the fragility of life and how precious our friendships formed through our developmental years really are. The keen sense of loss felt for a friend the same age, was an acute reminder of my own mortality, and I was prompted to reconnect with other school friends I had fallen out of touch with. I was fortunate to discover that the bonds we had shared were strong enough to reunite us, and have since visited another girl, Elizabeth in Australia; sharply aware we never know when we might not get the chance again. Julie’s death had a significant impact on my life perspective, I no longer take for granted the privilege I have to age and mature; and though turning 40 was at a difficult time personally (December 2010), I am embracing this new decade with the gusto and joie de vivre that she undoubtedly would have done, if given the chance.

As I sit here writing in the café, my coffee is long finished, and the clouds have disappeared to make way for the sun. So I’m wiping my eyes, as I blink back the tears and make a silent promise to Julie, that I will find the laughter in every naughty opportunity without fear or regret, because life is too short and too precious to waste our emotions on such utter nonsense. I hope I have many years to remember this date, and one day to share with her sons some of our girlhood stories and laugh again at the scrapes we famously got into. Meanwhile it’s a beautiful autumn day here in London, and I am going to enjoy every single second of it! Please do too, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for any of us. Much love & blessings, Hxx

{Photo uncredited, words by Hayley Darby 23.Oct.2011 in memory of Julie Normile}

9 thoughts on “In memory of Julie

  1. So sad that you lost Julie, but happy that you made a friend in Andy. I lost my sister Kathy in 2008, just 1 month after her 40th birthday, from an unexpected heart attack. I too made some new friends due to her death, as well as reconnected with old ones. I found it helpful to create a facebook group in her memory that has kept her spirit alive for me. It may sound corny, coming from a 47 year old man, but every now and then when I’m feeling down, she sends a Ladybug my way to let me know “It will be all right”!! Ladybugs were her favorite. ❤

  2. It’s as if Julie left you and Andy the friendship you’ve formed to fill the hole she knew her passing would leave behind for each of you. In that friendship your connection with her is sustained through the memories you each have to share of her. Isn’t it wonderful how life works?

  3. P.S. I had the gift of reading My Stroke Of Insight 3 years ago when my young brother suffered a stroke. An amazing story with great insight into life and living.

    • Dear John, thank you for your comment, yes it’s so true, I lost a friend and gained a friend, and I’m sure the ‘little minx’ would like that. ‘My Stroke of Insight’ is an amazing book isn’t it?! I’m sorry to hear your brother suffered with a stroke, sending prayers & hope. Blessings, Hxx

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