I don’t remember quite when Verna came into my life, but do I remember everything about when she left, and I also have very fond memories of the time in between.
I first met Verna when she and her husband started coming along to the same church as the one I was already attending. She was quiet and softly spoken with the most beautiful smile and incredible skin. It was because of this I thought her to be much younger than she actually was and assumed we were a similar age. It turned out she was about 20 years older than me.
Verna had an incredible faith. Having raised three children on her own as well as holding down a nursing career she had a resilience and deep inner strength, and was a strong woman but never pushy or forceful. We quickly became friends and I would go round to her house every Friday morning to pray. I loved those times together and treasured time with my friend. Having been a single parent, like I was at the time, she understood the difficulties and struggles of raising children alone, and whilst deeply private, she was always willing to share some of her experience with me and offer hope.
When I told Verna I felt it was time to move to Orkney she was saddened to see me go but supported me 100% . She even had a dream about my future husband which came true! We shared a tearful goodbye and it was time for me to move on to new things but Verna was always on the end of the phone, and I called her LOTS.
It was whilst she was visiting her daughter in Switzerland that Verna fist became ill. She never once named the hideous monstrous disease which eventually took her (so I won’t either). She made no agreement with it, she refused to give it voice and carried on with continued grace and dignity. She was delightfully in remission for a time and was very excited about mine and Orkney Beef’s pending wedding plans. She had a new dress to wear and was looking forward to celebrating the marriage of me and the man she had dreamed about. Unfortunately, though she had become unwell again and had to deliver the sad news to me a couple of weeks before the wedding that she was too unwell to travel. I was devastated but understood. She managed the next best thing which was a DVD of our special day and was delighted to watch it with her husband Bob.
A month after we were married I had a phone call telling me that Verna had taken a turn for the worse and was now in the last stages of her life. She had been a given short amount of time to live and if I wanted to see her to say my goodbye it was advised I go as soon as possible. I flew down a couple of days later and spent a very special weekend with my lovely friend. She was bedridden by this time and I lay on the bed with her, held her hand, read to her and prayed and sang with her. I am so grateful to her husband and daughters for allowing me the space and time to spend with her. It was a special and beautiful weekend and over too soon as I had to head back for work.
Verna remarkably hung on for another two weeks though she was on a morphine syringe drive and unable to communicate but this time, apart from a few special moments like when the nurse who was caring for her sprayed her with a little of her favourite perfume and Verna silently mouthed ‘thank you’
My dear friend died peacefully in her home on October 26th 2011. For her funeral, she wore the dress that had been bought for my wedding. I can hardly believe 5 years has passed, I still think of her often. Her husband came to visit a few months afterwards, making the long journey from Cambridge to Orkney on behalf of them both. We email regularly and Bob regards reading the blog as one of the highlights of his day. I thank him for allowing me to write about Verna. I apologise BB if it leads to shedding a few tears.
Thank you, Verna for your friendship, love and support. You live on in the hearts of many and I know some day we will meet again. X