Elizabeth died the morning of the 12th of July, surrounded by friends and family.
Which is what we have written on social media, and in newspapers, but I feel that this place deserves a less sanitised farewell. Elizabeth wrote uncensored discussions of cancer, she was honest about what happened with her body, and to just say she died, passed away, etc. feels insincere.
Elizabeth died the morning of the 12th of July, surrounded by friends and family, but below I am going to talk about what that means (feel free to leave it at this).
*Photo courtesy of Alex Seton. The piece is Eternally Yours, a collaboration between Elizabeth (words) and Alex Seton (plinth, skull).*
Elizabeth’s friends and family had been sitting with her for days.We hadn’t slept enough, spending the time trying to distract ourselves from her increasingly ragged breathing. Time was mostly measured in gaps between her injections of morphine. She didn’t suffer at the end (probably, hopefully) because she was doped off her tits on morphine and midazolam.
On Saturday the 9th she was barely able to speak, slurring what were maybe words and desperately trying to maintain some connection with us. Sunday she was sleeping except when she moaned and cried. On Monday the best she could do was make eye contact, staring blankly through half closed eyes.
I see her eyes in my mind, yellowed from jaundice , glassy, bright yellow gunk crusted in the corners; dull in a way I had never seen them before.
I cannot say what happened at the very end, as she died surrounded by her friends and family, but not her partner. I supported her through cancer for two years, through operations and chemotherapy while her body slowly fucking failed, but in the end my strength gave out and I could not be there.
This is what cancer is. Someone’s body choking them from the inside out until finally it cannot function. She was strong in understanding how her life would end and choosing to end treatment when she needed to, but Elizabeth’s death wasn’t brave, or courageous: it was the only fucking thing that could happen.
We owe Elizabeth not to gloss over the reality of her cancer. While we remember how tough, compassionate and honest she was, we need to remember how cancer ate away her ability to move, to speak, to function at a most basic level. It filled the end of her life with anxiety and with fear. She formed intensely close friendships throughout her life and during her two years of treatment, but couldn’t use a computer or phone to talk to them at the end. She wrote for journals, blogs, and published in places I honestly cannot remember, leaving drafts scattered everywhere. This was not a life coming to its end, it was cut short.
Elizabeth died the morning of the 12th of July, and I will leave you with her words:
Death, fuck right off.
Eternally yours, Liz