I'll sing it one last time for you, and then we really have to go...
Today is my friend Lauren Scott's birthday. It's also my god-sister Alice's and Johnny Depp's, with whom I'm sure dear Lozzie would have been delighted to share her day. She would be twenty. I say 'would' because, like Tina and Erica, she's no longer here.
We were in the same class at my first secondary school and became close because we both liked reading, horses, music and playing The Sims. In many ways we were very similar but, in others, we were very different - especially in terms of physical ability. No-one's really sure what kind of disability Lauren, had but it was vaguely comparable to Muscular Dystrophy, if only in that it was degenerative. During reading time we'd sit next to each other so I could turn her pages and, if we had packed lunch I'd mash up some of my crisps, and sneak the tiniest bites into her mouth so she could at least have a taste. Being fed by a gastrostomy tube straight into your stomach doesn't leave you with much opportunity to savour your meals. She would return the favour by distracting me from my homesickness, having already boarded for quite some time.
She was fairly healthy for most of Year 7, and quite a proportion of Year 8, but life is full of changes and soon Mama and I would make a detour on our return-journey to school and stop off, first at Guy's and then the Royal Brompton (both hospitals in London) to see her there. She was always the same and would shoo her mum and mine away so that we could catch up on the school gossip in peace. Often she struggled to talk, as she had a tracheostomy and a ventilator attached; I'd keep up a steady flow of conversation.
Today, though, I want to share with you one of the times she could talk, and did, with all the fierceness of spirit that she possessed. I didn't know this at the time, but she was soon to make the decision not to have another operation on her heart, so maybe it was her way of letting me know she'd always be with me.
We both liked Snow Patrol - at least, she didn't so much, but she knew I did; and during one of our visits, in a very quiet voice, she sang me their song Run. Eventually, of course, she stopped - she was exhausted and I was in tears. (Surreptitious ones - it wouldn't have done for our mothers to see - but she got her message across.)
Lauren died on 7th April 2006. Whilst I miss her terribly, even after six years, I'll always remember something her dad, Andy, said quite soon afterwards - 'now she's breathing deep and running free'. So today, whenever I've been sad, I've had the reminder that she's more comfortable wherever she is and that I'm on this mission as much for her as for myself.
Happy birthday, pal, and thanks for being 'right beside me, dear'. I'll never forget you.