Last weekend I sorted through some piles of papers in Folly Cottage. I had no problem throwing most of them into the recycling bin. Until I found stuff from our holiday in Portugal two years ago, when Chris had her first seizure and the story of her fatal illness began.
It had been a fabulous holiday until that fateful night. We’d been wild swimming in nearby rock pools; we’d gone to the beach where Chris took this photograph; we’d baked bread and cooked together from the amazing Piri Piri Starfish Portugese cookery book; we’d walked mountain tracks; we’d joked and laughed a lot. For sheer joy we’d yelled POR-TU-GALÉ at each other at every opportunity.
It was hard to look at notes we had made in the hospital: details of tests and diagnoses; names of nurses and consultants; phone numbers and email addresses of neurologists and neurosurgeons back in England. Memories of our intimate conversations during the eight days between the seizure and our departure came flooding back and, for an hour or two, I was very upset. “She tried so hard,” I said to friends who called round. “She tried so hard.”
One artifact made me smile though. It was the information card given to her by the crew of the Air Ambulance that brought her home. She was feeling quite well by then and, after a lifetime of travel, thrilled to be flying in a Lear Jet with her own pilot, co-pilot, doctor and nurse. There wasn’t enough room for me to accompany her, so to her great amusement I had to fly back the next day on a standard commercial flight.
We loved Portugal and we would have returned if circumstances had been different. I certainly hope to go back one day. In the meantime, I’ll pick out some recipes from Piri Piri Starfish, peas with eggs and chourico maybe, and let my stomach fool me into believing that those days haven’t gone forever.