Monday, 8 July 2013

Goodbye My Friend

I had just stepped out of the shower when Husband brought his phone into the bathroom to show me his Facebook page. As I tightened the tie on my robe and wrapped my hair into a towel, I prepared myself for a pregnancy announcement. Then I read the post and suddenly would have preferred to read that every woman on Fertilebook was pregnant at that moment.

Rest in peace, my love. My life now has an emptiness that cannot be filled.

Marie and Pierre were fellow chemists in Husband's lab. There was an instant attraction when they first met; but as they were both dating other people at that time, they insisted that they were "just friends". After a few months they realised they weren't kidding anyone -most especially themselves. As soon as they broke up with their now insignificant others, Marie and Pierre became inseparable.

Their personalities and interests were quite different, but they complimented each other so well. Marie was a 'type A' and was high strung. Pierre was very laid back and relaxed. Marie was an athlete, Pierre was content to be a spectator. Their other major difference is that Marie was adamant about not having children, while Pierre desperately wanted to be a father. A few years back, a mutual friend commented, "The only way Pierre will have children, is if they figure a way for men to get pregnant."

Last year, Husband and I ran into Marie and Pierre at the London Olympics. We hadn't seen them in about 5 years and we were shocked at the condition of Pierre. He was in a mobility scooter and appeared to have a facial droop. His speech was a bit slurred. We quickly engaged in hellos and pleasantries, but as they didn't offer any information regarding his health, we didn't ask any questions. Multiple Sclerosis, a stroke, early onset Huntington's disease...I started running a differential in my mind. Husband and Marie started chatting about their work, leaving Pierre and I to talk amongst ourselves.

It was an awkward moment, and I felt that I really didn't know what to say to him. Then I suddenly remembered that many years ago Marie and I were playing on the same hockey team. Pierre, as always, was there to watch Marie. I asked him if he would use my camera to take some pictures of our team in action. "How much film do you have?" He asked. (Pausing for a moment -remember film! -remember sending it off to be developed and waiting days to weeks to share your photos?) "I tend to go mad taking photos" he warned. "Are you still taking pictures?" I asked the now handicapped Pierre. His facial muscles couldn't completely express a smile, but he was beaming. "Yes I am!" He exclaimed "that was so sweet of you to remember."

When we met up with some other mutual friends, we received the details on Pierre's situation. Shortly after we last saw him, he started to feel poorly, but it was about a year and a half before he was referred to a neurologist. He was then evaluated by some neurology sub-specialists, who agreed that he probably had an atypical form of  Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a.k.a Lou Gehrig's disease. Some commented that at times they felt that the disease affected his personality, but on his good days, they still found their old friend.

My first thought on learning of his passing was to acknowledge the blessing that he is no longer in pain and no longer suffering. It probably was a good thing that he and Marie didn't have children. As much as he would have loved every minute of being a dad, I'm sure if would have been agonising to know that he would never watch them grow up. As his level of disability increased, I'm sure he would have been more frustrated not to be able to engage in activities with his children. I imagine it would have been very difficult for Marie to care for her ill husband and for a baby. Yet, despite these silver linings; there's still no justice, it's still not fair. I'm relieved to know that he is now comfortable, but he shouldn't have been sick in the first place. I'm giving a double finger 'Fuck You' to the Universe right now.

I dug up my old photo albums (another blast from the past) and found the photos Pierre captured from our hockey match. He was really talented and I'm glad he could continue with his hobby despite his crippling state. I really treasure these photos, especially now as I realise that they represent our last connection to our friend. I'm so happy that we ran into them last year. I'm so glad that he was able to attend the Olympic Games, hosted by his home country, as he loves sports and has so much national pride. His last day was spent watching rugby, tennis and the Formula One qualifiers. I'm gutted that he passed the night before one of the biggest stories in British sports -Andy Murray's triumph at Wimbledon; but I like to think that he opted to have a better view of Centre Court.

Good bye Pierre. Your kindness and zest for life will never be forgotten.


  1. How sad... I always try to look at the silver linings in these times too, like how he got to spend his life with someone he loved so much. It must be incredibly hard to go on after losing a spouse... Sorry for everyone's loss.

  2. A beautiful tribute to your freend. I'm deeply sorry for your loss.

  3. So sorry to hear about this! Sounds like a great person and glad you had some good memories together

  4. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. I have a college friend with ALS and it is an awful, awful disease.

  5. I'm so sorry, Jane. My thoughts are with you.

  6. I'm so sorry. Hoping that Marie has someone to support her now.

  7. I'm so sorry for your loss!

    I'm sure your friends would appreciate the chemistry (slash physics) pseudonyms. I did!

    1. I couldn't resist, they both are (were) chemists and unfortunately share a parallel tragegy.

  8. Oh, Jane, I'm so sorry for your loss. ALS is such a terrible disease. Hugs to you, your husband, and Marie

  9. I'm so sorry for your friend passing. What a great tribute to him.