Blog post by Susie Scott
I have an incurable illness, there I said it. A year ago, I thought I’d reached the stage where I could handle life’s stresses and strains, then I was hit with it – brain cancer. Prognosis, terminal. At work, I’d been asked to organise a series of spirituality discussion groups, it didn’t appeal. Not because I don’t have a faith or belief, or that I am not curious to engage in philosophical discussions about life and death, but because, I’m afraid. In the last 12 months fear is my constant companion. It stalks me, eats into my little moments of respite and joy. I scream and shout at it. Go away, don’t darken what’s left.
Then I found myself, sitting down in a small group at HAHAV’s Living Well Centre and being asked to talk about my funeral play list. Normally in a café I’m asked semi, soya, or full-fat milk with my coffee. I really didn’t want to say anything, but I started talking, thinking about songs which meant something to me and those, that I felt would mean something to my little community. If this was to be my final performance, then I realised I wanted some input into it. Songs, Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I never can say goodbye’, a Saturday Night fever disco floor under the box, Petula’s ‘Downtown’, the theme tune to my shopping trips with my niece and Elvis Costello’s ‘I want you’ to mark the passions, failed and successful in my life, and a scattering of ashes on the sea – my last surf. It felt weird, surreal but also strangely comforting to begin to talk about my last wishes. To think about words and the legacy that will be me. I haven’t changed the word, I’m no crusader but I know I have been loved and that is perhaps the greatest gift of all. This should all feel heavy, but I felt lighter and braver with every comment, insight I shared with the group. I was with strangers in perhaps the kindest café I have known, bonded by a sense of humanity, and understanding. Sounds pretentious? No, it was grounding and very special. So, anyone out there I encourage you to give it a go, whether you’re close to the sell by date, a carer, or just someone who has been quietly thinking about life and its endings.
Our next café is on 13 December, 11.30-1.00pm. And yes, there is coffee and soup!