April 14, 2012

Wendy Walking Wednesdays

Another friend has been taken by cancer. Too suddenly for us, but thankfully quickly for her. It is still too soon for me to do more than copy what I will say at her funeral next week:
For those who don't know me, my name is Amanda, and Id like to share with you a few stories from my friendship with Wendy. 
We met about 7 years ago in an aquarobics class at our local physiotherapy centre, and for a long time the only two things I knew about Wendy were that she played the violin in a local orchestra and missed her husband a lot when he was away. That might sound odd, but I can remember exactly when the physio mentioned that, because up to then most of the women I'd known didn't much mind at all when their husbands were away! Later I saw for myself how close Wendy and Arthur were, because she often used to arrange an outing or come around for company when he was away, even for just a long day. They also managed to spend months together in the same car, travelling around Australia, and still be speaking nicely to each other when they got back. A eye-opener for me, and completely wonderful.
During a year or so of aquarobics classes I got to know Wendy a bit better, and eventually I asked her if she wanted to join me on some of my regular bushwalks. She was only free on one morning a week, and so began a tradition that lasted for several years - the Wendy Walking Wednesdays. We covered an awful lot of ground, on various bush tracks in Kalamunda, Gooseberry Hill and Lesmurdie. For the first year or two their dog Digger often came along, as did my girl Thika, and it was a sad day when Digger was no longer around. As I huffed and puffed my way up the hills, Wendy would teach me about wildflowers and tell me about various adventures and exploits during her active Guiding years. It was always hard to picture her abseiling down a cliff, because from the beginning to the end of our walks, she looked neat, well-ironed, and above all, clean and perspiration-free - all in stark contrast to myself!
For many years she carried a sort of small woven dillybag over her shoulder on our walks. She must have been very attached to it, because she kept using it despite the fact that stuff often fell out, including her keys (which on one occasion were lost forever). We once found a half-dead long-necked tortoise miles from water at the top of a hill, and she put it in that bag so we could try to get it down to Piesse Brook. It must have felt better by the time we reached the top of Hummerston Road, because it climbed out and fell onto the road with a thud. She put it back in the bag and held the top closed from then on, but we were hugely relieved when we finally reached the water and it swam off.
Our most exciting walk was about a year after we'd met, when I slipped down a gravel slope and landed awkwardly. I still feel bad about the very rude word I uttered, because I don't think Wendy ever swore, but I assured her that I'd just twisted my knee. I said I wouldn't be able to walk all the way back up the scarp, so Wendy went on ahead until she could get a phone signal and call someone to meet us at the road, about 2 kms away. I somehow managed to hobble along behind, but I wasn't game to tell her until almost 2 weeks later that in fact I knew at the time that a bone in my lower leg was broken! By then I'd been trapped in my house for 10 days, unable to get my wheelchair through the front door, so Wendy came around with a picnic lunch and managed to get the wheelchair out onto the verandah. I will never forget the completely marvellous feeling of being outdoors and in the fresh air again. 
I have so many stories about Wendy's kindness and understanding, including the time she took me clothes shopping (which I loathe with a passion). She told the shop assistant "I won't be able to keep her in the shop for more than about 10 minutes, so get cracking!" The assistant wisely did so, and I left with my first new clothes for years. 
But I'll finish with her contributions to my 50th birthday. The year before that, on one of our walks, I mentioned a trip I had heard about which went to Iran, and I felt this might finally be my chance to see Persepolis, a lifelong dream. It was a scary prospect, and very expensive, but Wendy solved my dilemma with a simple question: "Will you always wish you'd gone?'. So I went, and it was absolutely, 100% worth it. I might have missed it but for Wendy. 
Two days after I got back it was my birthday, and Wendy made me a cake decorated with the most beautiful and life-like WA wildflowers made from icing. They are an exquisite reminder of her talent, her love of nature, and above all her friendship to me. I am now giving them back as my tribute to her, and I hope you get the chance to admire them too. In order to display these flowers today, I've had to use my non-existent craft skills, but I know that despite the amateurish results, Wendy would have made me feel I'd done a great job. That was another of her gifts.
Thank you, Wendy, and thank you to her family for giving me this chance to share part of a friendship which changed my life in so many positive ways."
Vale, dear Wendy. 


Related Posts with Thumbnails