Wednesday, 4 July 2018

RIP Whitney

This evening, just a few hours ago a good friend of mine passed away. Whitney Hackett. After battling terminal cancer for months she lost her battle.

I remember the first time that I saw Whitney. We were working together at a call centre for a company called Teleperformance. She had just started her training. I noticed her straight away because of her Pokemon hoodie. Being a geek and someone that's into Pokemon I immediately thought 'I need to talk to that person'. Anyone who comes to work wearing an Umbreon hoodie is bound to be pretty awesome after all.

When we finally got chatting it was pretty clear that we had similar interests, and a friendship began to form. Over the months that we worked together we went from colleagues to good friends, and I would always look forward to our shifts together, even if they were bound to be long and stressful.

When I left Teleperformance one of the few things that I was sad to be leaving behind was Whitney. On my last day she gave me a gift, a Pokemon key-ring. This gift wasn't just something that she had picked up in a shop though, this was something that belonged to her, something that she had had with her every day that we'd worked together. Of all the gifts I received that day, all the messages of good luck, that tiny gift was the most important to me. I still have it to this day, on my keys, with me wherever I go.

As can sometimes happen when people stop working together our friendship drifted and we didn't speak for a few months. When I finally spoke to her she had not long received the news about her diagnosis. I couldn't believe what she told me, I didn't want to believe what she told me; but that was when I knew that I couldn't let our friendship slip again. I had to make sure she stayed in my life.

I made that determination into something that drove me forward to making sure I passed my driving test as quickly as I could, desperate to be able to use my new license to visit her. Thankfully it worked, and I was able to start seeing my friend again. I visited her, took her out, even kidnapped her to make sure that she saw the latest Pokemon movie.

During this time we chatted online a lot too, and she told me that she was planning to raise money to go to Japan. Thankfully there are so many generous people in the world, and Whitney's target wasn't just met, but totally broken. The level of generosity people showed, some to a complete stranger, was amazing. She finally got to have the holiday of her dreams, the one that we'd spoken about so many times.

When Whitney took a turn for the worse, when it became obvious that the end was close, her family asked if I wanted to come and see her, a chance to say goodbye.

All the way over to her house I wracked my brain thinking about what I would say. I wanted to tell her that she is one of the bravest people I've ever known. I wanted to tell her that she's one of my only friends in the area, and that I treasured our friendship. I wanted to tell her that I would never forget her. But I didn't know how I was supposed to do this. How to put it into words. How are you supposed to say all of that to someone as they lay dying?

In the end I didn't say any of those things. I sat with her, holding her hand whilst she struggled to stay awake. Instead, I told her the most important thing, that I loved her. That was the last time I saw her, just a day before she passed.

Before I went in to see her, her mother told me that she didn't look like Whitney anymore. She didn't. She was tiny and frail. She didn't look like the girl I knew. But that's not how I remember her. When I think of Whitney I don't think of her in that bed at the end; I remember the young woman who talked about Pokemon, who spoke with me about anime and manga, who told me about all of the places she wanted to visit and things she wanted to do if she ever got to go to Japan. I remember my friend who should have been thinking about her future career, who should have been imagining her wedding, who should have been considering if she wanted children one day. I think of that young woman facing the worst scenario imaginable and doing it with such strength, grace, and dignity.

Whitney may be gone, but whilst her family and friends remember her she'll never leave us.

I'll always remember our times together, I'll treasure our friendship, and I'll always keep her fox safe, the piece of her given to me to remember her by. Goodbye Whitney, at least your fight is finally over.


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