(*Photo credit to the girl who makes my every day brighter, my wonderful Ash*)
There was a doctor, at the hospice I worked at, who retired in the days after I left. She had thick, wiry hair that seemed to move after the rest of her, and she wore decorated skirts that looked like seventies curtains. I always felt that how she looked on the outside was exactly how she was on the inside. A little chaotic. Effervescent. Beautiful, and full of colour.
She'd worked at the hospice for years and years: an embodiment of knowledge and wisdom and hope and this wild, kooky sense of humour that always forced a crack of dazzling light through the black. She became everything to so many of her patients because of it. I watched her heart break a little as she stood, amidst a sea of adoring faces, to say goodbye.
'So many of you have come up to me to share kind words,' she began, 'to tell me that I am all of these wonderful things. But I want to remind you of a South African philosophy by which I live my life. Ubuntu. It means, essentially, that I am me because you are you. I am what I am because you are what you are.'
It stayed with me, that word. I've thought about it a lot since then: about how fiercely I've come to believe in it over the past year or so. How the people we surround ourselves with are, perhaps, the most important of all of our choices. How we create each other, and what an enormous, world-changing realisation it is that before we are anything else, we are the sum of those closest to us. That there are people who make us better and braver and kinder and happier: people who vivify things, vivify us, and there are people who don't.
The good ones, the ones we need to be around: they paint the world in the hues of our favourite colours. When we're with them, we laugh a little harder, think more deeply, and give more generously. Our fears become less of a restraint too: because they're there, next to us, with us, inside of us, and we have their fierce courage dancing in reserve when we can't rely on our own. I think, maybe, that we believe in ourselves more because they do, and that their love for us has the potential to become our love for us. Which is.
Everything, really. The most special thing of all.
And these people: these people only, are there to be cherished and held onto, always and always and always. Those who tenderly brush the knots out of our hair. Those who make us laugh until the salt of our eyes is halfway down our cheeks. Those who challenge us and teach us and inspire us. Those who love us, for all of our innate quirks and flaws, regardless, and those who look after us: who lift the weight of the entire world, somehow. The woman who will curl up in bed with you to put the world to rights at 7pm on a Tuesday evening, just because, and the man who listens to you closely enough that he notices the little squeak at the back of your throat when you laugh. The people who make life effervescent.
'A person is a person through other people.' She continued. 'We made me. And so really, I need to thank you. How blessed I have been to be surrounded by such kind, talented, passionate, selfless, lovely people.'
I smiled at that. And I remember thinking that maybe, of all of the things I have and all of the things I want for my future, it is this that I will tend to the most. Because it is this that will lay the foundation for everything else. And it is this that will make me better, and make my life
and full of colour.