I love the photo at the top of this blog. It reminds me so much of Juliette’s irrepressible spirit. She’s got her hair up in a towel like Elodie standing next to her, only she knows she hasn’t got any. The look she’s giving as I take the picture is to share the joke with me, just before bursting into fits of giggles.
Juliette always found jokes – different things that made her laugh and ways to make others laugh. She loved how it made her the centre of the attention, but it wasn’t only that. She just found life fun. Even taking her medicines was a game.
She’s sitting on our kitchen table after her bath; bald and naked except for a towel, Hickman line hanging from her chest. She holds the medicine cup with her chemotherapy pills, and I can see she’s thinking something, then she grabs a glass of water and grins at me. “Look Mummy, magic trick!” She tips the pills into her mouth, drinks some water, then shows me her empty mouth.
She looked so beautiful, and innocent; making a game swallowing toxic pills that we were forbidden even to touch; so pitifully vulnerable and yet, in that moment I believed nothing in the world could defeat her.
For the months Juliette was ill, I avoided the significance of these thoughts. It was easier to be drawn daily into the slipstream of her energy and enthusiasm for life and see that as life-affirming; a good thing.
She loved people, especially adults. She wanted to learn what they knew. Hospital was a goldmine for her. Sometimes, in between Steph leaving for work, and me getting there after dropping Pierre and Elodie at school, I’d find her with the nurses doing their ward rounds. They gave her a clipboard, and she wrote notes. She had nicknames for all her special nurses. “You’re so sweet!” she would tell them, giggling. When she was well she couldn’t be still. She twinkled, lighting up a room, making each one of us feel like the most special person in the world.
These are some things the lovely nurses said about her.
“I shall miss your pretty, smiling face and infectious laugh” Carole
“A twinkle in her eye, that devastating smile, she made my job so very worthwhile”
“Pink & Purple, Fluffy & Bright, Mummy in the daytime, Daddy at night” Shona
“Having the chance to share time with people like Juliette is why we all love what we do. I never saw Juliette without her beautiful smile and that is what I will always remember about her.” Matt
“Princess Lafosse, Pretty, Pink and above all, Purposeful!” Terri
“Juliette will be remembered by me as a special little girl who got her Papa walking around the ward with pink toe nails and open toed sandals. I also learned that “Tatty” was not a well-loved toy but a very loved grandmother.” Sue
“She was wise beyond her years” Linda
“I called her my little doughnut, because whenever I asked her what she wanted to eat, she would say, ‘Doughnuts!’ ” Mary
“I remember that Juliette’s favourite Christmas present was a pink silk cushion which I thought was so unusual and lovely” Leander
“From the first day you brought her up to the ward, until the last day we saw Juliette, her eyes never stopped shining. She barely complained and she never stopped making us smile. It seems so sad that the illness that took her from you was the one that brought her into our lives” Carole
I wanted this to be a happy post and here I am, crying again. I’ve lost an amazing person I would love to have known as an adult, but I was lucky to have had her for five years. She was wise, because she spent no time worrying; wasted no time putting off the things she wanted to do. There were no fallow hours with Juliette. Every morning she would say, “I want to do something exciting today.” She let us tease her for this, but still she didn’t waste a minute.
I try to live like that now. I’m no hedonist, but I make sure that Elodie, Pierre, Raphi, Celeste and all the other people I love, know they’re loved, every second. If today was our last day together, would it be one that would make me happy to remember?
Juliette made sure I have a whole memory vault full of those.