I have to admit there is a big element of “Ooh look!” in my blogs as they tend to cover whatever happens to be going on in my life at any particular moment. That is in fact the beauty, and possibly the attraction, of writing a blog in this fast moving, media-infused world. Whatever is occurring is what arises. Sometimes I laugh in it, sometimes I cry. This one is more at the tearful end of the spectrum. Last week I heard of the passing of Mario Reading, who was a huge inspiration in my cancer journey, and yesterday we went to his funeral, which was a beautiful, beautiful affair. There were black Friesian horses with long wavy manes pulling the carriage containing the coffin, and I was allowed to stroke their lovely soft noses. I rest my case.
My first reaction when I heard the news was that I couldn’t/wouldn’t go to the funeral. Given that I can cry for England at the drop of a hat at both weddings and funerals, and also at ‘The Last Night of the Proms’ (strange but true), I knew that I could easily drown the congregation in the floods of my tears, which would be completely inappropriate. I only met Mario in person a handful of times and couldn’t be considered a close friend, so why am I so upset?
Mario was a hugely successful author selling literally millions of books worldwide – including the Nostradamus Prophecies – in many different languages. His life and adventures were like something out of Boy’s Own, and apparently the more extreme the activity the more he was up for it; he belonged to all kinds of crazy groups, whose sole intention seemed to be to discover how creatively the members could risk their very lives. I knew very little of this side of him, just hearing about it from his friends, and from the beautiful eulogy to his life at the service yesterday, and it was very different from what I expected. The Mario I came to know (through the Village Writers Group in Brockenhurst) was a deeply spiritual, compassionate and optimistic man who had been bravely living with and loving his cancer for over twenty-five years. His love and zest for life were such that everything else came first and the cancer came second, and his advice to me was to write, write, and then write some more, and pour it into the blog. I did, and the release it provided was a very important part of my journey. Then, as the blog became a book, Mario gave me the most beautiful endorsement, which meant all the more coming from someone who had lived with cancer for so long.
I know that he didn’t want to be known and remembered as someone who was defined by the disease; I’m sure he felt that the important parts of his life were so much bigger and so much more exciting and louder and more colourful than most of us could even begin to comprehend, and that the whole cancer experience came a very poor and trailing last in a long and illustrious line of truly unforgettable memories. But just like I felt I had gone through the wrong door, leading into the cancer ward rather than the health club (way back in Blog #1), so do I believe that most people feel the same when they get such a diagnosis, and that anyone connected with a cancer experience can be encouraged by someone as brave and open as Mario. To continue, nay, actively pursue life with such love and gusto, in spite of participating in numerous clinical trials – each one coming with the increasing hope of overwhelming the foe within in order to spend more time with loved ones – amidst fund raising, writing more books, and doing the things that make life worth living, is to become an inspiration to others.
So, dear Mario, I raise my glass to you (you did say to keep enjoying the wine) and thank you for being there for me when it counted. Your optimism will live on in my heart. But not all that crazy life-threatening stuff you did. I’m a total wuss and I like to play safe :-)
May you soar high with the eagles and enjoy your boundless, new-found and well-deserved freedom. The heavens have indeed gained a bright star.
1953 – 2017