On Christmas Eve we lost a good friend.
Alana was Isaac's godmother and wife to our dear friend Ian.A rough transcription of the eulogy I read at her funeral on Tuesday follows, for those who were not able to be there (preceded by a few background details for those who didn't know Alana).
When Alana was born she was diagnosed with polycystic kidneys. The doctors said that it was unlikely she would live even a few months, perhaps five years at most. However, even at that young age Alana was determined to the point of being stubborn, and refused to let her body beat her. At about fifteen she had one kidney replacement operation, and last year we were there to celebrate her 30th birthday. Wine was drunk and much karaoke was sung.
(I would point out here that it was not Alana drinking wine - that would have just been silly of her)
It is this tenacity that defined her, more than her illness ever did. Alana had a phenomenal capacity to disagree, as anyone who was ever on the wrong end of an argument with her will appreciate. If you went up against her with a different point of view, you had better be ready to defend your position with all your energy, because she certainly would. I really enjoyed getting into heated debates with Alana, and for the many that we had, I don't think I ever came away feeling like I had won a single one.
This was not because she was deliberately disagreeable, but rather because when she believed in something she really really believed in it. When making it through day after day of dialysis and medication requires vast reserves of inner strength and hope, there can be no room for doubt.
But although Alana and I disagreed on plenty of things, we also agreed very strongly on many things. The thing we agreed on the most, and one of the reasons for which I respected and admired her so much over and above her sheer endurance and strength of spirit, was this: We both agreed that big changes can be made in people's lives by normal people doing little things for others. Despite being dealt an unfair hand in life, Alana was a giver, never a taker. She shared, she cared, and she loved those around her with all her strength. And in doing so, she changed people's lives.
Another thing that we agreed on was food, particularly dumplings. I remember inviting Ian & Alana (Uncle I and Aunty A) to dinner, and telling Ian that we would be having stew. Alana said that if I made dumplings to go in the stew, then they'd come. Many discussions were had about dumplings, ingredients, cooking methods, and just how many I ought to do so that there would be enough for her on any given night. More was generally better.
About the only thing we disagreed on when it came to food was how much Uncle Ian was allowed to eat.
For us, Alana's life was not defined by her illness but by her determination not to be defined by her illness. She took every positive that came her way and made it a reason for celebration, usually in spite of whatever setback they might have been facing at the same time. She dedicated herself to helping others, working as a nanny and as a counsellor. She showed us all just how full and joyful and amazing life can be, and we are all better, stronger people for having shared in the blessing of her life.
It was an honour to have been asked to bear Alana to her final rest, and I'd like to thank Ian for asking me to join him and Alana's family members as a pallbearer.
Further tributes to Alana ca be found here.
I would also like to take a moment to pay tribute to Alana's husband Ian, my very good friend of many years, who has been Alana's caregiver ever since before they were married (just a couple of weeks after us, in fact. We recently all raised a glass to our six-year anniversaries). Ian selflessly dedicated himself to Alana, especially in the past 2 or more years since she moved onto regular dialysis and as her health gradually deteriorated. Ian deserves some sort of medal for the strength and courage he has shown supporting Alana through her final years. He indeed loved and cherished his wife, in sickness and in health, until death did they part, just as he vowed on their wedding day. Ian, you're my hero, and we're here for you as you well know.
It is due to this sad course of events that Freshly Ground has been quiet since before Christmas. We spent time at the hospice with Ian and Alana prior to her passing, and the funeral was just a couple of days ago. A little bit of quiet time for reflection was the least I could do for Ian and Alana's family during this difficult time. Normal transmission will resume very shortly.
Rest well, Alana. You will be missed around our table.