Friday will be exactly eleven years since Jenny died. I rarely talk about her, but not a day goes by when I don't think about her.
Backtrack a little- Jenny was several years older than me, and one of the "cool kids" at synagogue. I hung out with the kids my age, and we all looked up to the slightly older ones (you know how it is when you are 4-5, and there are these oh-so-cool 9-10 year olds!) My family stopped attending synagogue for various reasons, and carried on with our day-to-day lives.
Fast forward to me, aged 14, when I was admitted to the local hospital for treatment. Jenny was also a patient. We grew close again- her attending each day, me returning to the ward after "program" to sleep. We talked a lot about our similarities between our families, our upbringing, the daily battles we faced. Her eyes sparkled at her excitement about recovery, her determination to get well shone through her frail appearance. As time went on, due to Jenny's family circumstances, she hit a bump in the road and started to go downhill. She was admitted to the same ward I slept on, and our bond grew stronger. It was heartbreaking to see her struggle, the twinkling in her eyes start to fade. Still we talked, made grand plans for when we were well and out in the real world.
A couple of weeks later I was transferred to a unit 300 miles away, leaving Jenny behind. She made me promise that I would never stop fighting for recovery, that I was worth it, that I was stronger than this disease. I kept the card and picture she gave me by my bed and thought about her all the time. A week later, I got called into the nurses station to take a phonecall. I took the phone, and it was one of the nurses from the hospital Jenny and I had been in together. She didn't have to tell me. I knew. I remember falling to the floor, and I remember crying for what felt like months. I don't remember much else about the days/weeks that followed.
All I know is that a part of me died that day.
Eleven years later and I am plagued with guilt that I didn't keep my promise. Every time I use some kind of "symptom", I get flashbacks of Jenny and I huddled in the hallway of the hospital- me, promising that I would stay strong, that I would beat this. I hear her voice, hear the excitement about the prospect of being well- it comes in flashes, and I want SO badly to live the life that was taken from Jenny. I feel guilty that I survived and Jenny didn't. That I wasn't there for her during that last week. That I didn't DO something, that eleven years later I still don't know what I could have done.
I am angry with the hospital for letting her die. Angry at the doctors for standing back and watching someone so special just deteriorate without intervention. I am angry at the healthcare system and lack of resources in Scotland that took away the best friend I have ever had, and continues to to take the lives of others. It is so unfair, so cruel, so wrong.
I don't know quite what I believe about the afterlife, but I hope that Jenny is at peace with her demons now.
Jenny... I miss you.
1 week ago