I saw her in the rear-view-mirror of my car. I was in a service station about half way between my parents’ home and my home, about a hundred miles from each. I was surprised to see her as she was so far from home. I thought about getting out of the car and saying hello, but I was in a rush and she looked like she was talking to her friend.
I drove out of the service station I felt gutted that I hadn’t made the effort and got out of my car, I could turn back but I was on the motorway and it would have added at least 30 miles and a half an hour to my journey. Besides, I couldn’t even be sure she’d be there on my return. I had plenty of stuff to do when I got back to London and I was sure I’d see her at some or other church thing some or other time.
It played on my mind the rest of the journey. I’d spent so much time with this lady in my teenage years, she’d made such an effort with me, she’d really helped me realise my potential, she was one of the first grown ups to not treat me as though I was weird and I as though I just needed to conform to some evangelical ideology of faith, she’d let me do my thinking for myself. I’d been too lazy to get out of the car and say hello to her.
I visited my parents a couple of months after that and they told me that this lady was sick, she had cancer, but she probably wasn’t going to die, it was curable. I knew that 1 in 3 people in the UK got cancer each year. I didn’t know, and still don’t really, how many people die from it. I went on about my day like nothing had changed, I trusted that the doctors knew what they were talking about, and in my experience, if they’d said someone might die, there was a chance they’d live, if they’d said they’d live, they had. If I’m honest I thought that this lady would probably end up cancer free and she’d have a good Jesus story to tell.
Since no one had mentioned it I’d forgotten that she was I’ll so when I was visiting my parents recently and my mum got a text message it wasn’t the first thing that came to my mind. My mum told me that this lady had died.
Actually died, like I’d never see her again, I’d missed my chance; this wouldn’t be a happy Jesus story. It was just crap.
I was angry with the colleague of my mother’s who had text her to let her know. I was angry with myself also, firstly because I’d not gotten out of the car those few months ago but mostly because I had never told her how much her support had meant to me during my formative years.
Now I’ll never get the chance.