Thursday, 24 May 2012

A 21st century friendship

I started using Facebook in 2006/2007, encouraged by my 2nd daughter.  The whole internet/IT thing was still pretty scary and daunting but, as my children were on it, and they were getting increasingly scattered, it seemed like a good way to keep in touch, so worth facing my fears!  On April 4th 2007 I fell, and completely destroyed my right elbow - not a clever thing to do for someone heavily right handed!  This left me learning to do as much as possible left handed, and surfing the net was easy in comparison to some things, so, to save my sanity, I started to spend alot of time online, learning all I could about all sorts of things!  I discovered, to my delight, a group for over 50s on Facebook, and started chatting with the lovely lady who started it - a certain Peta Bridges.
As we chatted, we discovered we had both grown up in Canterbury, and that I had lived just a couple of houses away from the Police Station where her husband, Bill, had worked.  She coached me in using the net, and encouraged me to have confidence in my explorations. As time went by, the problems with my missing elbow increased (there was no replacement joint available, and I lived with steadily increasing levels of debilitating pain) and Peta was there for me as no one else was, searching the net for all the help she could find for my situation.  There was little practical that could be done at that time, and as my pain inceased, my spirits sank.  At all times, Peta lifted me up, reaching out through the ether to place a metaphorical arm around me, and giving me the courage to lift my head and plough on.

In late 2008, I reached the point where I could stand the pain no longer, and asked my Consultant to amputate my arm above the elbow, as I could no longer even breathe without the shock waves in my arm being excruciating. Still Peta was there for me, understanding, though regretting my decision, and I felt her presence with me as I went into see my consultant.  Astonishingly, he had just found a brand new, suitable joint for me, and it was fitted in May 2009. The joy Peta expressed for me was almost greater than my own! 
Bill & Peta had a talent for speading happiness, confidence and strength, as became evident reading their Facebook streams, I was far from the only one that Peta had supported through hard times.  Tragically, they both started to suffer some bad health themselves, Peta undergoing some fairly agonising treatment on her back, and being unable to drive because of the pain, and Bill generally suffering all round 'not feeling good'. Earlier this year Bill underwent a series of tests, which showed him to have cancer, but they both decided to fight it with all the strength we, their online community, could offer in support, setting up a special page on Facebook where we could gather together to share and pool our resources.
Bill had been given an estimate of 10-12 months, but he deteriorated rapidly, and was sent home to Peta's loving care. Apallingly he died only a few weeks later, on the 15th May, exactly a week before his birthday.
Peta was devastated. Left alone with just her 2 dogs, Paco & JD, her distress was palpable over the net, and Facebook overflowed with loving messages from the enormous, wordwide network of people whose lives she had made so much better by her touch.
It was not enough, and Peta was found dead at her home on Bill's birthday, exactly a week after she had lost her 'beautiful boy'.  This is just my personal perspective on Peta & Bill, many more had the privilege of much closer, longer and physical friendship with them, and many of their Facebook friends made the effort to go to Spain to be with her in the flesh - I desperately wish I had been one of them.
I am heartbroken for the pain that Peta felt without her 'boy', for one who had given strength to so many, it was peculiarly cruel. They are together again and we are bereft - but she helped us be people who could cope with that loss.
Rest in peace, Bill and Peta Bridges, you will take alot of forgetting.  Thank you for being.