This is a bit different from a normal Pog Blog post, but it’s something I would like to write, so I hope you’ll bear with me.
I’d like to tell you a story…
When I was little, I had a best friend – the sort of best friend we all had. That one who was always at your house or you at theirs. The sort of friend who was just there. Always. Like another member of your family. My best friend was called Cassian and we met when we started nursery school aged two. She was smaller than me, and I remember her then as a feisty little girl with a really infectious laugh.
We were the sort of friends that got to each other’s birthday parties early and left well after everyone else. I clearly remember one year when we were told off because between us we ate a bowl of skips and a bowl of quavers crisps before anyone had even arrived. One of my favourite memories was staying after that party to watch Cassian unwrap her presents. We were five years old (I think), and she was kind enough to let me unwrap one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a child do that since and it still makes my tummy smile now.
I can remember Cassian being poorly when we were four. I visited her in Guys hospital, and although I can picture her there, I mostly remember the pretty fish in the tank near her bed. Cassian had chemo and lost her hair. I’m not sure it really registered with me – she was just my best friend and looks didn’t come into it. I do remember her first day back at school though. She had been given a wig, but it was the early 80’s and it was not a good one. She turned round to her Mum, pulled it off and announced ‘I’m not wearing that itchy thing!’ And we all just got on with the busy life of being a small person at school.
If I could tell you more I would; about our dressing up, face painting, meeting up at the local bonfire each year, parties, discovering the wonder of recording our voices on a tape recorder…we loved doing that. We used to write postcards to each other when we went on holiday. I still have one somewhere that I know by heart. It says:
‘Dear Pog. I am very peely. Love Cassian. Xxx’
Sadly, I don’t remember many more details. Just her voice, her laugh, her ridiculously soft hands and how her hair grew back thinner and fairer.
When we were eight, Cassian got poorly again. I went to visit her at Guys Hospital again. I cried at the station on the way home because this time she wasn’t going to get better. She came home and I am still grateful to both of our parents that they let me visit her there in the evenings after school. She was in a coma, but I used to hold her hand and read Milly Molly Mandy books to her because the Macmillan nurse who stayed with her explained that she could probably still hear, and I knew she liked Milly Molly Mandy.
Cassian made it to nine years old but she died a week later.
There is a reason I am writing this – well, two, really.
First: Today would have been Cassian’s 40th birthday. I don’t know if she is looking down on us or if that is just what we hope about people who have left us. In case she is though, and just happens to read my blog (well, you just never know!) I want her to know that she may have been gone for a very long time, but I have never forgotten her and she will always be my best, best friend. And I will try to stop moaning so much about my impending oldness and remember that I (and all of us) are damn lucky to have had so many birthdays to celebrate.
Second: It’s daft, but maybe you could raise a glass / cup of tea / smile to Cassian today? Nobody’s 40th should go by without lots of people to think of them, wherever they are.
So, from me to my best, best friend: Happy 40th birthday, Cassian! :o)