• Lara Flanagan

A farewell and a homecoming.

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

It is very hard to believe that only two weeks ago I was waxing lyrical about the secret ingredients to gelato.  In those two weeks I feel that my life has changed and will never be the same.  Today we were meant to be landing in Thailand.  It is vaguely ironic that the final quarter of my trip was the one I was least excited about, I saw it as a final challenge and chapter to a 12 month adventure.  

Right now I am home and I wish I was in Thailand, because if I was in Thailand, it would mean that my life was still on track and I would not have learnt what it means to have a broken heart.   I don’t really feel like being at home, but then again, I don’t really feel like being anywhere right now.  I feeling like I am drowning in grief.   They say time heals all wounds and I just wish that time would hurry up a little and heal what I feel is permanently broken.

I came home to farewell my beloved sister Tiney.   I share the words I spoke on the afternoon of her memorial as for me there are currently no other words.

I think Tiney would get a real kick out of me speaking today.  She once told me that I was incapable of keeping my emotions in check and that I should avoid speaking in public when I am emotional.  She also told me that I had notoriously bad judgement. She would take a drag of her cigarette and say, “It’s just not a good look matey.”  So, this is for you Tiney.

I was in Italy when Mum rang me to tell me about Tiney.  I did not believe it at first, thinking I had heard wrongly due to a notoriously bad skype connection.  When it sunk in I think I keened like an Irish widow who had had her soul ripped out of her heart.

My only priority was getting home and for that I thank Archie and Rissie for being two of the bravest souls I know. Whilst I wept with airlines who refused to help, whilst I literally stopped being able to breathe whilst walking along the concourse of yet another airport and sunk to the ground and sobbed into the concrete floor, Archie and Rissie were a constant source of strength.  Some people said to me I should continue my travels.  For me, I just wanted to come home.  The reason I was travelling meant nothing anymore and if I could not farewell my Tiney, I would never have forgiven myself.

I do know that the two operations she had on her face changed her forever and there is no way she could have gone through anymore.  She was in pain and the way she chose to depart was of her own making and I respect that fully. I firmly believe that she did not communicate with us as she did not want to be talked out of anything nor did she want to give us any extra pain.  Since her first operations she had become somewhat of a recluse and I don’t think she could withstand anymore.

When people refer to Tiney they refer to her as a gentle angel that has left his earth.  That she was a sweet soul.  And she was.  I also remember a Tiney who was a foul mouthed funny bastard who could make me laugh harder than anyone I knew.  She could do countless things with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth and I was often in awe of her sense of style and grace, even with the ciggie.

She had a profane mouth and an incredible sense of humour.  Tiney also had this way of making those around her fall in love with her.  I can remember years back preparing for an impending lunch with my grandmother –  I was fully prepared with the names of actors she liked and movies she was interested in so Gar would be impressed by me and maybe love me a little, but Gar just ignored me as she focussed on beautiful Tiney who was using an old paper bag at the time as a wallet. Gar was fascinated as Tiney pulled her money out of a scrunched-up paper bag.  What a cute little angel she was.  I continued to be a deadshit whilst Tiney continued to be the most impressive person I knew.

Whilst I was going through a gym junkie phase Tiney told me she would come to the gym with me.  On day one, after 5 minutes on the treadmill Tiney come up and asked me if I wanted a ciggie.  One day two after 10 minutes on the stair machine she came up and offered me a full American breakfast with pancakes and maple syrup.  After day two I asked her not to come back to the gym with me as her presence was proving detrimental to me being a gym junkie.

I have so many memories of Tiney that will stay with me forever.  One Christmas we celebrated at the Black Bull Inn in Haworth so I could add to my Bronte fuelled fantasies.  She sat in Branwell’s chair for me and got rotten drunk with me and decided at the end of it all that she would climb wooden fences and run out into the snow-covered moors looking for Cathy.  I told her we should be looking for Heathcliff but she told me that Cathy sounded a damn site more interesting.  I had to drag her up the stairs of the old Apothecary B&B and she amused herself all the way up by telling me what a dickhead I was to be obsessed with all that crap.

She had an amazing relationship with Archie and Rissie and they would be enthralled and delighted with her as she discussed Archie’s chocolate coated balls, Rissie’s girlie bits, gave them dating advice and generally told them how not to be reprobates whilst herself acting like a complete reprobate.

Tiney was a compulsive liar.  I think John John referred to it as alternate facts.  It would drive me to distraction when you would ask Justine a question and she would give you an answer that you knew was not true.  She would waltz in to the room in a fabulous new shirt and when you asked her when she had bought it she would say, “Oh this old thing, it has been in the back of my cupboard for ages” I would tell her then that she really should cut off the label that was still hanging off it as it was clearly a recent purchase.  She would then look at me wounded as if I had insulted her.

She loved my recipes and claimed them as her own.  The number of times Mum would ring me and tell me she had just had Tiney’s amazing Nachos or Minestrone Soup and I would tell Mum they were my recipes and Mum’s response was, but surely you don’t make them like Tiney did.  I had to tell Mum that I taught Tiney how to make them like I did but I don’t think she ever believed me because Tiney could be so damned convincing.

When I heard about Tiney my first thoughts were anger.  I was so angry at Tiney.   I was so angry I could not see straight.   Then I went through so many emotions that I was not capable of thinking.  When I close my eyes, I see her in those final hours or moments and I cannot imagine what she might have been going through and I am so sad that I was not there to help and that she chose to speak to none of us.  I now hate closing my eyes and I hate sleeping.

The fact of the matter is that Tiney chose to end her suffering in a way that gave her dignity and choice.  I am not so sure that many of us could be as brave as she had been.

The last few years were the happiest of her life despite the fucking cancer and despite her anxieties about it returning.  Alan was the love of her life and the dreams she had with him were beautiful.  She was excited about buying a house, her new job and the life she had planned with Alan.  There was talk of a baby and a puppy and I would have loved to have seen a mini Tiney. Then the cancer returned and she made a choice so that none of us, including herself, would be put through what Tiney saw as too much pain.

The thing that made me saddest was that she did not say goodbye. But I have been over it and over it.  We last spoke on Tuesday night which was Wednesday morning her time, and we were planning on spending Christmas together in Tasmania.  I was telling her that the kids loved making their own decorations and she told me that was fine, they could have their own tree out the back and the real tree was going to be in the front decorated by Bed, Bath & Table and Country Road.  She even told me that she would let me cook everything and we could have a Vegan Christmas.

Tiney and I were never very demonstrative verbally or physically with each other.  We hugged and kissed rarely and awkwardly, when we told each other that we loved each other it was generally in a “love ya dickhead” sort of way.  But in that last conversation she said to me, “Lou, you know I love you.  You are a great mum, an amazing sister and my best mate.  You know I love you matey.  You are going to be ok.”

It was so unlike her and now I think she was saying goodbye in a way that she was capable of.  And I don’t even know what I said.  I probably said something like stop being a dickhead.  I don’t even know what I said.  I will never forget those words and I will love her forever for trying to say goodbye.

Tiney was my person.  She helped me through some of the darkest days of my life and she was always at the end of a text, a phone call or a skype.  One of Tiney’s biggest attributes was her amazing heart, her inability to judge and an overwhelming sense of empathy.  She always gave more than she took.

Tiney was my person and I am not sure what do now that she is gone.

She was my person.

I love you Tiney.  That’s it.  I love you and I will be ok though right now it doesn’t feel like it and without you I am the loneliest I have ever been. You were the only person I told everything to, and you knew me, the good, the bad and the downright ugly and you loved me anyway.

I have so many things that I want to say to you.  So many things I wish I had said.

Thank you for always being my person.  You will be in my heart forever.

Tiney, if it be your will that you speak no more and that your voice be still then that is ok.  Your voice will never be still for me – it will always be in my head and my heart.

I love you Tiney and will forever more.

#BrokenHeart #Grief #MyNotes #MyStories

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