I’ve just washed my hands using the soap I have by the sink. Molton Brown’s unpronounceable ‘Naran Ji’ and I take a deep breath to inhale the smell and let it work through my senses. I don’t use it that often, making do with the less exotic fairy washing up liquid for 2 reasons; the first being that it’s very expensive but the second because it reminds me of a lost dear friend.
We moved into our house 5 ½ years ago and the street was very friendly. It was a new housing estate so people actively went and knocked on new neighbours doors, introduced themselves and then before you knew it you were involved in coffee mornings, trips to soft play and afternoons sitting on the green outside our house. Friendships were formed quickly but they were strong and genuine. We were all young mums together and revelled in a shared support network. The community hubbie and I had found was exactly what we were looking for and we were very happy.
I first met Sarah when hubbie and I called over to thank her for her cards inviting us to have coffee, we popped over and her welcoming husband invited us in there and then and put the kettle on. Sarah opened her front door and always joked about not walking into the right house as she saw 2 strangers sitting at her kitchen table and for one moment was confused. We introduced ourselves and that was that. We stayed for hours it seemed laughing and joking about the common ground we found that lay between us. Children, money, jobs and unfortunately depression.
I was suffering with depression and Sarah had also suffered in the past. We became close and at last I had found someone who knew exactly how I felt, could understand the confusion that is depression and empathise with the feelings of frustration and isolation that depression brings on.
A year into our friendship Sarah’s health started to decline. She lost weight, was unhappy with her marriage and was having disturbing thoughts. Medication didn’t help and neither did talking to her friends like it once did. She told anyone who would listen about her disturbing thoughts and asked to be admitted into the psychiatric unit as she knew she was declining rapidly.
Without much help and therapy Sarah’s mental decline was fast and she eventually took her own life. After disappearing for a day and a night, she was found in a hotel bathroom by a chamber maid having booked in the previous day under and false name. She clearly did not want to be found, this was no cry for help and the notes left for her husband and mum showed this.
She left behind a husband and 2 young sons who just months before she had adored. I was the one when we all got together who said she would dread the school holidays but Sarah was the one who said she looked forward to them as she had her boys all day for days at a time. She was a proud mother, a caring mother but most of all a loving mother. She was beautiful and an amazing friend often making the effort way beyond normal friendship just to help out someone who needed her.
I have my memories; her leaning out of the window one Christmas morning saying ‘the turkey’s off!’ and me asking if she’d like our beef…’ of her saying that she was ‘off to trim her bush..’ meaning the tree outside her house and not the bush we were all thinking of as we stood there giggling while she looked on confused. Of her popping over to show me her son’s first report as she couldn’t really see what the teacher was saying despite the fact he is amazingly bright (and has just told me he’s achieved level 5 in his KS2 sats –she would have been so proud) I have these and more…
The mind can be amazing yet cruel and Sarah’s mind was not well. Those who think depressed people should just pull themselves together clearly have no understanding of depression. If Sarah could have, she would have so she could be with her 2 gorgeous sons and live a life with them. But her mind was broken and just because she was dressed each day and put makeup on; she wasn’t treated as seriously as she should have been. Court cases and compensation can achieve closure over liabilities and give provision for a life without a wife and mum but they would give it all back in an instance to have her walk through the door and wonder at 2 strangers sitting at her table.
She used Naran Ji in her kitchen and when I washed my hands in her sink I often remarked on what a lovely fresh smell it is. Orangey and tangy, a strong smell that stays with you for a while after you’ve used it. I was in a hotel room months later and used the soap without thinking and the same smell flooded my senses taking me right back to her kitchen and her.
I now have a bottle in my kitchen and use it occasionally. I’m moving soon and won’t have the same chuckle as I drive past her house and see her ‘bush’ I won’t imagine her still on the green in her flowing summery skirt with the wide brimmed straw hat reading with one eye on her boys. But I will take the bottle of soap and put it by the new sink in the new house as a reminder of days gone by and maybe I’ll stop asking why? And instead just enjoy the moment, however fleeting, and remember my lovely friend; Sarah.