Yesterday I went back to Oxfordshire, to the village where I grew up, for the funeral of an amazing and much loved man. Jack had lived a long and full life, teaching so much to everyone he met over the years, and the day had much laughter and reminiscing as well as tears and sadness that Jack was no longer with us.
I met childhood friends whom I'd not seen for decades, was hugged and kissed by people who'd known me since I was at primary school, and generally felt very loved all day. It marked the end of an era, because Jack had just always been there. He was a great age when he died and we all knew that the day would come when he was no longer with us, but it was still hard to take in yesterday. He had been at the centre of the village and the community for as long as anyone could remember.
But endings always come with beginnings and yesterday also marked a very important beginning for me. I found out, just a few hours before I drove to Oxfordshire, that I have a place at University for this September. I will be going to City University, in central London, to train as a nurse. After three years at home with the children, and many more years before that working as an accountant in the City, this is a completely new beginning for me, and one that I am incredibly excited about.
I have recently started a voluntary job at my local hospital as a helper on the wards - I serve lunch, chat to patients and help them with small tasks such as fetching them books to read from the hospital library, pouring them drinks, chopping up food and propping them up with pillows. I am based, at the moment, on a general ward for elderly women, and some of them are very frail indeed.
After the funeral yesterday I chatted with some of the people who had helped to look after Jack in his last few weeks. They told me what I have seen for myself at my local hospital - gentle kindness from nurses means so much to people who are at the end of their life, and to their families too. The best nurses are the ones who remember that little gestures can have a big impact.
I will try to remember that as I return to the whirl of study, travel, work and childcare juggling in September; Jack's still going to be teaching me things.