Thursday, April 05, 2012


The last few weeks have been a bit overwhelming, hence the lack of posts.

Tomorrow is the funeral of Annie. We were on the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage together as 17 year olds and went to many of the same Young Friends events over the next few years. She died of cancer and respiratory problems, leaving behind a husband and two young daughters.

So over the last couple of weeks or so emails and facebook messages have been flying around, sharing the news, trying to track down just which QYP Annie went back as leader of in the hope of then letting her fellow pilgrims and leaders know. Realising that whilst almost 25yrs have passed since our QYP and most likely 20 years since I last saw Annie that doesn't actually lessen the sense of loss. We hadn't kept in touch, but that didn't really seem to matter - we knew each other was there, news was shared through mutual friends and recently she commented on an old YFCC photo I'd posted on facebook. I was so chuffed to see it, responded to it but didn't follow it up. Just knowing she was there was enough. And now she isn't.

About a week after Annie died a close friend from uni (Auckland, not Newcastle) was diagnosed with lung cancer having been admitted to hospital struggling to breathe. I'm now swotting up on genetically mutated lung cancer cells and how apparently in the greater scheme of things these are Good Things To Have if you're going to get lung cancer. Again a mother of two young children, boys this time.

Part of me is half expecting news of a third but hoping like mad it doesn't come along.

So, another round of emails, facebook conversations etc etc etc. All I can say is thank heavens for the internet and the ability to share news so fast.

Amidst all of this came a request to help find someone to serve on the UK based QYP committee - again facebook to the rescue! A friend of a friend had contacted me to ask about it who I then put in touch with a friend of another friend who was interested - all in a few days. Try doing that by post between opposite sides of the world! So back to thinking about QYP again and my own experiences as a 17yr old meeting for the first time Quakers from other traditions and countries - all whilst packing and preparing for the World Conference of Friends in Kenya. Thinking about the effect QYP had on my life, on the friendships that started there, on the lasting links I see between pilgrims from other years too, on where many of them now are in life and the journeys they have taken.

The experience of such events can take you to a place of understanding and spiritual connection that are hard to explain to anyone who has never shared that sense of deep togetherness that has grown out of such a short amount of your life physically in the same place. Contact between meetings is great, but more often than not it doesn't really matter when you meet again and it is as if you saw each other just last weekend. Such friendships outwith Quakers are rare for me, but in Natalie I have just that, which is why knowing what she and her family are going through over in Sydney is so hard to take right now. It is so frustrating knowing that I'll be flying via Australia to and from Kenya and won't get a chance to see her.

However what I will be doing is making the most of the chance to see those other friends with whom time and distance is no object that will be in Kenya, and I'm looking forward to adding more names to that list.

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