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A Wake Up Call

By Karen Vally on 07 Jan 2014

We were on our way to King Shaka Airport a few days ago, when the wake up call came. It was time for my "Christmas Present" to go back home to Cape Town. As we drove past Hillcrest, we mentioned my friend who teaches at a primary school there. " Did you give her a call for her birthday on 16 December? " my husband enquired. "No, I didn't," I guiltily confessed. " I've been so focussed on the children coming home for Christmas, that it completely slipped my mind. It just goes to show you, we can't rely on our memories any more, can we? We really must give them a call and get together some time. "

I had barely completed my sentence, when my phone rang. " Hi Karen. Compliments of the season to you. Did you try and call me a few days ago? There's a missed call on my phone, and when I looked at the number, admittedly without my glasses, it looked as if it were yours."

" No, I didn't, but you're not going to believe this, we were just talking about you a few minutes ago. We're on our way to drop our son off at the airport. I am so glad that you've called, as I've been meaning to phone you. We would love to see you. When are you going back to school?"

" I'm not," she replied. " I've been booked off since August. I have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and am busy having treatment. What are you doing after you've finished at the airport? Why don't you come around for a cup of tea?"  We accepted her invitation. As she came out of their home to greet us, I was immediately struck by her beautiful smile and her sparkling eyes. Yes, she has lost some weight and all her hair, but that was hidden by what I thought was her stunning new hairstyle. Listening to her story from when she first felt uncomfortable until the final prognosis was so callously delivered to her, I was both inspired and encouraged by her incredible strength and optimism. " I'm going to live to be an old lady," she chuckled.

 In the two and a half hours that we spent together, I learnt a lot more about my friend, about myself, about life and about the need to be even more vigilant than I already am about my health. We all live our lives as if we're not going to die. It's the furtherest thing from our minds as we hurry our way through our list of things to do. This" butterfly" has decided that from now on, she is going to spend more time building memories with her family and friends, she is going to slow down (I have found myself on some days, working even longer hours than I did in the corporate), and she's going to spend more time enjoying the simple pleasures of life. At the end of the day, nothing else really matters, does it?


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