I fucking hate cancer and I have a particular hatred for breast cancer, especially when it steals away a star like Vickie S. It's just not fucking fair that someone who is 50 years old, who has a 14 year old boy and has spent the last 4-5 years healing herself dies from fucking breast cancer.
You have to understand this about Vickie, those of you who will never have the joy of knowing her because she died too fucking young.
Before she was diagnosed, she had already gone through grieving for the death of her father and her cat. I met her in rooms where we went to recover from another disease that had almost killed us but from which, because there is some grace, there is a way to heal if you're willing to put in some work and sit around drinking lots of pretty bad tea or coffee in church basements and random community halls.
I was at such a meeting telling my story when Vickie walked in distressed and crying told us of her diagnosis. I thought in that moment: thank you God/dess for allowing me to be here in this moment. Thank you for allowing me to be there for someone else. That was very important at the time as I was dealing with my own grieving, which was OK, but then again, sometimes it's just fucking better to be there for someone else. And that was one of those days.
And then I watched Vickie do something for the last two years - fight this fucker cancer with all her might, even when she got the even worse news it had spread to her liver, even when she got the good news in the middle of her treatment that it had disappeared and then again when it came back.
She did not devolve back into her - then - secondary illness (the one we share) and she kept at the forefront the whole time not only her own recovery but her son's well-being, he who was 12 when she was diagnosed. Perhaps he was 13, actually I'm not sure. But young, too young, WAY too young to go through this.
She set up family holidays (and in fact a few weeks before she died, they were in Cyprus). Because she is British, she did not have to worry about health care costs and because she worked for the Camden Council, she had good pension/disability payments. So the last 2 years she spent fighting her illness and spending as much time as possible with her son and husband. For his sake, she did the last round of chemo that almost killed her, so she could be around for those precious few more months - which turned out unfortunately to only be weeks.
She wore this amazing red wig she bought when her hair fell out, she always got her nails done, she had acupuncture, and she did the traditional stuff too. She reached out for help, and we all - her friends - were there for her. I was only peripheral really in comparison to her friends who were there for her continuously.
We talked sometimes and at key times. She was so crazy generous in her praise, way too generous in my opinion. All I did was say: fuck, you must be furious! And she would laugh and say: YES thank you for saying that, I am fucking furious.
Why, why, why do so few people give each other the space to be angry at illness? Why is that? Or is that just a female thing? I don't know. In any case, I get the sense this is what I was able to give her and I was glad to be able to do that, and so now because it comes naturally and in her honor, I'm STILL FUCKING FURIOUS.
Because like what the fuck?
She was 50, she was gorgeous, she was doing everything right you could do right, she loved those around her and was loved and still...this.
I know, btw, I've read Job, so please spare me any scripture in response to these questions. I get it. But it still pisses me off.
And makes me sad, sad, sad. I'm shaking my fist between sobs, as I'm pretty sure anyone reading this can understand.
I got the text this morning from my friend Barbara and had to decide if I should go teach or not, which I did, because I knew for a fact if Vickie were in that situation, she would have gone to teach. No personal tragedy was enough to keep her from doing service, of all kinds, including for the meetings we shared as well.
I saw her one day before I left London, walked her back to her house with my friend Dave. She had come to lead a meeting even though she was weak, her skin beginning to look translucent, like very old and sick people's skin does - she was gorgeous in that eerie way people on the verge of death are gorgeous. I knew it would be the last time I saw her. And I just sat there like an asshole - making stupid jokes as I recall and waiting for her son and husband to get home because she didn't know where they were, we were drinking tea that Dave somehow managed to make us, his hands shaking slightly, keeping up a brave face. He had had his own fight with cancer, still is fighting it though hopefully will remain all clear and so this was no simple friendly visit for him.
So far, he's made it and if he's reading this: Dave you're going to be OK. If not, I'll kill you. And that goes for others I know will probably read this like my mother, my beloved cousin Darcy and my friend Eva. You're not allowed to just go and die like this. It is simply not on.
And the saddest thing for me is that right now I am in NYC and teaching so I cannot fly to London and be with my friends. There was a pretty tight group of us and now I'm here, exactly where I need to be, but right now that feels hard.
But I just have to say, Vickie, wherever you are: you are a star, the world is dimmer now with you gone, but I hope/pray/believe that you are lighting up some other place or some other dimension. I know you weren't a big God person so I don't want to impose that language on you or your memory.
I will always remember your 50th birthday party though, all of us dancing, your hundreds of friends, so delighted you were alive. And you made that happen, too, you knew we all needed a party and you did, too, and so there was: a party.
And I am so sad you are now no longer with us and that there will not be a 51st birthday party. It seems so unfair.
I love you and I send blessings and love to all who knew you and will miss you, which are many, many people, because you were brave and beautiful enough to let us all in, even when you were dying, even when you were weak, even when you were happy, even when you were scared, you let us in.
Thank you. You have been a blessing. You are a blessing and one of the bravest most loving people I've ever known. I will never forget you. That much I know.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.