Almost thirty years ago I was having frequent severe migraines and needed some support. I joined the British Migraine Association to see what help they could offer. I must’ve seen them in a magazine or something, because there was no internet back then. I think it was a case of writing to them and asking to be put on their mailing list.
It was so different back then. There were no Facebook groups, etc. Nobody you could email to ask for help or support. No way of asking Google.
They sent me regular newsletters in the post. The newsletters were A5 booklets, printed on a laser printer in an office somewhere I imagine, rather than professionally printed. I can picture it in production, as I had a similar job once.
It would’ve taken hours to produce; all the pages would’ve been designed in desktop publishing software, then coloured paper carefully selected. The printer would’ve whirred and clonked for days probably! Then someone would’ve had the job to collate and staple all those pages into a booklet, and then the booklets would be stuffed into envelopes, labelled hopefully using a mail merge program and not by hand.
In amongst the latest research and helpful information about how to cope with a migraine was a page of names and addresses of people who wanted pen pals.
In on particular edition, the pen pal page caught my eye, because I like writing anyway, and I thought it would be good to share experiences with migraine with a fellow sufferer.
I started writing to a lady in Norfolk. We soon became friends and exchanged birthday cards and Christmas cards, as well as regular letters telling each other our news.
Our correspondence continued, even when the internet came along. Nothing replaced our letters. As you can imagine, a lot of things happened over the years, perhaps more so in my life as I was mid twenties when I started writing to her. There were a lot of big events to write about, and I wrote to my friend every time. She always wrote back, pleased to hear my news, encouraging or sympathetic, whatever was required.
My friend was much older than me. She wrote about playing bowls, coach trips she’d been on, and looking after the bookings for the church hall. She never missed a birthday or Christmas. Sorry to say there were a couple of times when I couldn’t get myself together enough and I would phone her if I hadn’t been able to write.
Several months ago my friend was diagnosed with cancer. She carried on writing for as long as she was able. My last long letter from her thanked me for all my letters over the years. I knew then that she was saying goodbye. I wrote back and thanked her for being a friend too. I was so grateful to have that chance to say goodbye, and happy to know that my letters were something she looked forward to.
This week I received a letter with handwriting I didn’t recognise on the envelope. I knew before I opened it what it was going to say. My friend’s neighbour had written to me to let me know that my friend had passed away.
I am really going to miss her.