This story took 7 days to write, between Sunday 3 & Saturday 24 January, 2010. Now I leave you with the last letter. I’ve edited it quite a bit, as it ended up being about 6 pages long. I hope I’ve kept the best bits of it.
VII – The Last Letter
To my Dearest Friend Kate,
I wanted to write you a letter explaining everything and this is it. I don’t really know where to start and you know me, I’m very rarely stuck for words. But at this moment, I find myself at a loss for the perfect words. I wondered the other day, if I only had one more letter to write to you, what would it say? And when I finish, will I have the courage to send it to you, or will I keep it hidden and secret until I’m not around, so that I will never have to learn what you thought?
I’m very glad that I had the opportunity to meet you. You really did change my life. Our lives are on completely different tracks. And yet with all the differences, we have managed to maintain a relationship, albeit long distance and wordy, with one of us writing more often than the other! No, I don’t hold it against you. It’s something that I’ve come to terms with and that I fully accept about you – you suck at letter writing! How did we manage this – to be friends all this time?
My life certainly hasn’t turned out as I had expected or planned. Far from it. If it had, I would be having this conversation with Oprah or Ellen! You probably recall better than I do all the things I said I was going to do, and never did because I was either full of shit when I suggested them, or I was just plain scared to actually go ahead and do them.
I admire you for many reasons. I hide behind the impressions other people have of me, who they expect me to be, and you just stand out there for everyone to see, as just you. It’s something that I can’t ever do. I just don’t have the courage. I’m not even sure that I know who the real me is. Sometimes I have fleeting glances of her, and then she disappears again behind my disguises.
Well, that having been said, where do we go from here? This question, my friend, has only one answer. It doesn’t go anywhere from here. This is the last letter. You will have no opportunity for reply I’m afraid. It all ends here, but not because of anything that you have done or said.
The recent bouts of forgetfulness and disorientation and confusion that I wrote to you about compelled me to seek medical advice – it all sounds so formal, doesn’t it? I went to the doctor and he sent me for a shitload of tests, most of which were horrible, and the resulting diagnosis was not what I had anticipated I would ever face at this point in my life. 36 years of age and I have been diagnosed with early onset dementia.
It is advancing far faster than the doctor had believed at first. In a matter of months, weeks, or days, I will be lucky to even remember who I am, let alone who anyone else is. He can’t give me a timeline; suffice to say that at some point I won’t even remember that I need to breathe. And that is a situation I do not ever want you to see me in – unable to do anything for myself because I have forgotten how. And later on, I will forget that I am supposed to be living. Debilitating, humiliating, frightening and incurable – yes, all of those.
But what hurts the most is that I will forget who you are. I will no longer recognise you. You will mean nothing at all to me. Thankfully, I will not be able to process the look that you will have on your face when you realise that I don’t know you. I suppose that is my one consolation.
And, as such, I would appreciate if you would do me one last favour – as much as your friendship means to me, please, don’t ever come to see me. Don’t put me in the position of asking who you are and why you’re here. Don’t let me sit there and try to figure out why you look so upset, because I simply will not be able to understand or remember.
When I have the occasional lucid day, I know I will think back with great fondness of the best friend I ever had and I’ll wonder why I haven’t heard from her in a while. But don’t worry, I’m told that the memories and lucidity won’t last for long. . I know that it all sounds as though I’m being harsh and looking at this all so coldly, but it’s the only way that I can get through this part where I know what’s going to happen to me; what is happening in my brain at this very moment. I’m sorry if it’s too much to deal with now – think how I feel!
I know this is not the sort of letter that I would normally write, but these are not normal circumstances. What I most wanted to get across to you is that you are the most wonderful person I know. You are my dearest friend.
And there, I have said everything that I needed to. My affairs have been put in order, as they say, and this letter is the last arduous task. But the hardest thing I have to say because I’m lucid and aware and I know what I’m doing is this: I love you dearly, but please just forget about me. Certainly that is what will happen to me! Yes, at a time like this, I can still manage a tasteless joke!
I’m thinking that I might hold on to this letter until the last possible moment and then, when I’m sure that I won’t remember having written it, I’ll send it to you. I hope that you will go on to have the most amazing life. You deserve it!
All my love,