Oh, for one more day with Sue

Sue Mason, journalist, who died aged 52 on January 3.
Sue Mason, journalist, who died aged 52 on January 3.
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It was just three days into the New Year, a time of optimism and new aspirations. For you and I.

But for her, it was the last day ever.

Sue Mason, I’m honoured to say my lovely friend for over 20 years, lost her fight for life in the early hours of January 3.

I last saw her the day before, having hurtled to her home in Hull knowing she could go at any moment.

On that journey, I was scared. Of getting there too late, but also of getting there in time; what if she was in pain, or distressed?

Selfishly, I wanted the vision I had of her in my mind to be the one from a fortnight before, sat up in bed, excitedly sorting out her children’s Christmas presents.

But I stepped into the most reassuring scene. One that reminds you of the saddest, yet the most ultimately wonderful thing about death. That life goes on without you.

Sue was not in pain. She was in and out of consciousness and somehow managed to open her eyes and smile at me, as she had done all of her friends who arrived that day.

Her bedroom was filled with people who loved her. They weren’t weeping, they were chatting quietly. To each other and to her. By her side was husband Norman, her mother, her grown-up step-children and their partners and her two beautiful daughters. The youngest, Hattie, just nine, skipped in and out, holding her mother’s hand one minute, dashing off to bake buns the next.

Serena, 16 and so aptly named, sat hoping but knowing for hour on hour, then took a break to help make lasagne for tea.

It was exactly what Sue would have wanted them all to be doing and there could not have been a lovelier atmosphere in your final hours. Life was happening, all around her. As it would, she knew, once she had gone.

Though fight she did. She clung to every second with the children she had so many times said she could not - would not - leave.

That resolve had kept her going from the moment she was told by doctors that the nagging back pain she had been coping with was a cancerous tumour in her spine.

As if that was not devastating enough, there was this; the growth in her bone was a secondary. For some time, she had unwittingly been suffering from breast cancer.

Ever-smiling, always sweet Sue was intelligent and worldly-wise. A farmer’s daughter who became a journalist, she dealt in the gritty realities of life and knew what her diagnosis meant.

But for over a year, she simply refused to believe there was no hope and looked at the positives throughout. Losing the ability to walk more than a few steps? What did that matter, as long as she was still with her girls.

She was only 52. She should have been able to help them become women, and, eventually, mothers. Her loss, and theirs, is immeasurable.

Every day since she died, there has been some little thing I wished she could see. Like the rain on the window, a sudden, brilliant burst of winter sun. The January snowdrops I spotted yesterday, battling their way through frozen earth. They remind me of Sue. Sweet and unshowy, yet valiant and determined.

Selfishly, I reflect on the emails I didn’t send because I got too busy at work, the calls I didn’t make because I’d wanted to have my tea, then watch telly, then realised it had got too late.

I’d resolve to call her another day. Because you always kid yourself there is going to be one, don’t you?