Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal (or the Perils of Procrastination)

By Jo Collinge

This blog is dedicated to the memory of my huband’s nephew, Christopher, taken from this life at the age of only 32.

When I first met the late great Susie Sharman she was wearing a t-shirt which had emblazoned across it “Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal”. How right she was – Susie had more than her fair share of trials and tribulations over the following 20 years of our friendship, but she always lived every day as if it were her last, until her last day came when she slipped peacefully away.

I’m certainly guilty myself of “getting it wrong” over the years – but its from our mistakes that we learn and hopefully move on……Its not doing anything about those mistakes where problems can manifest and at times fester. Tim, having “divorced” himself from his immediate family, had not seen or spoken to his sister, Tanya, or his niece or nephews for five years. At the time, I decided not to get involved but did say to my sister-in-law to keep in touch if she ever needed anything. Since then, we haven’t spoken as such, but more texted each other every now and then, including when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Periodically I used to receive a text from Tanya asking if Tim would speak to her, to which the response from my somewhat stubborn husband would always be an emphatic No. Six months ago, I received such a text, and still in shock from nearly writing myself off in my car a few weeks previously, and Tim being unusually stressed with work, I left it for about a week before I broached the subject. In short – I procrastinated. Tim’s response, as usual, was a flat No. Having gone back to my sister-in-law with the answer and an apology, I was met in reply by a volley of abusive texts to which I was somewhat taken aback. Having started to respond, I decided it wasn’t worth it, gave up, and deleted the following ten or so texts without reading any of them as they landed in my in-box. I should have sensed that something was wrong and instead of ignoring the wrath of my more than usually irate sister-in-law, I should have picked up the phone and called her. But I didn’t.

If I knew then what I know now would it have made things any easer for all of us? Tanya’s younger son had been diagnosed terminally ill with gastric cancer with the life expectation of no more than six months if he was lucky. At the time he was only 31. Tanya was understandably angry and upset, and I had become the unwitting target. Had Tim known any earlier than ten days before Christopher slipped away from this life, would he have coped any better? Having known my husband for 30 years, I very much doubt it, and so does he. Tim cannot deal with any chronic illness, be it life threatening, as in Chris’s case, or just a sheer bl**dy nuisance, as in mine.

When I first met Tim, Chris was a lovely toddler of 18 months, engaging, full of smiles, and definitely won me over in the first five minutes. I know Tim always had a soft spot in his heart for his younger nephew, and Chris’s departure at the age of only 32 has taken its toll on my husband – it’s not in the natural order of life. Sons are meant to bury their mothers, daughters their fathers – not the other way around. Having not seen Chris for five years, Tim was unsure whether he should go see his nephew who had made it his last wish to be reunited with his absent uncle. It took some doing, but I managed to deliver Tim to the door of the hospice and into the safe keeping of his niece’s husband. Left to his own devices, Tim would have procrastinated until it was too late. Whilst it was a painful reunion for both nephew and uncle, I know that Tim has no regrets.

Chris passed away ten days later on his step-father’s birthday, at home, surrounded by his immediate family. On his death, he left the cancer and pain behind for a better place than this world of ours. Tim wasn’t there, but over those crucial ten days he had taken the opportunity to spend time with Chris, including texting each other whilst apart. Those ten days will always be special to Tim – no one can take that away from him. I for one am glad he didn’t delay – he would never have had that second chance.