I met Vicky when we were in Reception class, at just four years old. I remember walking up to her and saying innocently,
“Do you want to be my friend?” We became inseparable. We did everything together in and out of school. I was the tomboy who hated wearing dresses and pulled ugly faces in photos. Vicky was bubbly, full of fun and the one always in pretty dresses. We lived a five minute walk away from each other so we were always at one another’s house, playing after school or having sleepovers at the weekends. People say that we have the same laugh, we spent so much time together growing up.
Our Mum’s became close friends. Vicky’s Mum, Tracy, I instantly liked. She was lively and loud, and had a thick Geordie accent. It became our little tradition that I would have dinner with them every Tuesday. The ice cream van always came down their road, and Tracy would always treat us to a fab lolly. I was mischievous as a child, and was always pushing Vicky to do things we weren’t allowed to do. We would jump on the bed together singing along to our favourite music. Tracy would charge into the room and shout,
“Stop bloody jumping on the bed you two!” Every time she told me off I could see a twinkle in her eye that she didn’t really mind, and secretly loved seeing her daughter and best friend having fun. I felt I could talk to Tracy and would tell her about what was worrying me and I trusted her advice. I began to see her as my second Mum, someone who loved and cared about me. She was ambitious, and began a University course, which showed me it was never too late to better yourself.
When Vicky and I were Ten years old, Tracy suddenly collapsed one evening at home. They couldn’t wake her up and she was rushed to hospital. There, Vicky, her Dad and younger brother were told that she had had a brain aneurysm. She had been put on a ventilator, but they were told she would never wake up. She was only thirty eight. My Mum didn’t want me to see her in the hospital, but to think of her how she was. I remember my Mum coming home from the hospital in tears and telling me it was like she was just sleeping. Neither Vicky or I had lost anyone before. It felt impossible to get my head around that I would never see Tracy again and that Vicky didn’t have a Mum anymore. As I get older, I’m now in my early thirties, I realise just how young thirty eight is. She still had so much life to live and it’s so cruel that is was cut short in that way.
The funeral was gut wrenching. The room was full and we were all fighting back tears or sobbing. Everyone was in a state of shock and disbelief. It took place a week after Tracy had died, and I hadn’t seen Vicky until before it happened. I sat in tears, watching her cry, wanting to run up to her and hug her tightly and never let go. At the wake I went up to her and asked her if she was ok, not knowing what else to say. Her response was simply,
“I’m fine.” She ran off to play with her cousins. I was so confused. She was running around the garden and laughing. I went to my parents and told them what had happened. They told me Vicky was dealing with it in her own way and wasn’t ready to let go of her Mum and grieve yet.
In the following months we dealt with our grief in very different ways. Vicky wouldn’t talk about it to me for months, whereas all I wanted to do was talk. She became quiet and withdrawn. I felt like I was losing my best friend, but knew I had to stand by her. We walked home from school together everyday and on one afternoon, out of the blue, she started talking to me about her Mum. She told me how angry she was and how it was the doctors fault. Tracy had had heart palpitations in the weeks before and Vicky was convinced the doctor should have seen something else was wrong. I knew, as my Mum had told me, there would have been nothing for a doctor to find until it happened, but I couldn’t tell Vicky that. All I could do was listen and let her vent.
Grief made us grow up. We weren’t innocent ten year olds any longer. But it made our bond grow stronger. We realised that grief wasn’t a short term emotion, but that it lingered and caught you out when you weren’t expecting it. Vicky became quieter, but her bubbly side would surface every now and again. She tended to bottle up how she was feeling and only express herself to me when she was deeply upset. I became fiercely protective of Vicky, and when she was bullied in secondary school for ‘not being sad enough about her Mum’ I would lash out.
Vicky and I are still best friends, so that’s twenty seven years of friendship. As much as I have been there for her, she has supported me just as much through my mental health problems. I still think about Tracy all the time. To lose someone so close to you at such a young age you never really get over. In my own way I still celebrate her life by telling people about her. About her big, bold personality and caring nature. I’ll never forget.