My grandmother was a fantastic storyteller with a particular knack for inventing ghost stories on the spot. Her fantasy creations bought to life worlds where men kept solid gold legs, skulls and other bizarre things under their beds and lived in long forgotten farmhouses in deserted corners of the Kalahari Desert.
Sleepovers at my grandparents’ house always involved me and my brother climbing into their bed, after agreeing the appropriate payment which usually involved making tea, and then listening to these stories that would make the trip back to our own beds a bit of a challenge.She frequently told us the tale of how her own mother, shortly after passing away, appeared at the foot of her bed while she was at boarding school in Rhodesia, the now Zimbabwe. She always pointed out that this was the moment that she was no longer sad about her mother’s death and that seeing her mother sit at the edge of her bed(as a ghost) made her feel that she could move on.
I cannot comment on whether this really happened or whether this was the fantasy of a young girl missing her own mother but I do love this story. My own mother, within her last weeks, frequently threatened me with her own haunting abilities if I, in her words, made a mess of my life. I think now that I probably would have welcomed a bit of haunting from her, she would have been the type of ghost who haunted with distinction.
One of the reasons I feel so passionate about this project Conversations with Rose is for its vision of storytelling. It has from day one been an opportunity to tell the stories of many people who have experienced one of the most invasive things in life – cancer. Tales, conversations, sharing, stories – these are the things that connect us all, that make us understand that my experience is not all that different from your own experience. We all come from different unique families and backgrounds but it doesn’t take much to find our commonality.A few years ago I was sitting around a bonfire in the Rajasthan desert laughing as I listened to two nomads telling jokes about their inability to understand why their wives made such a fuss about their hairstyles. These are women who always have their hair covered in colourful scarves yet I can fully relate to ‘fussing about hair’. It also seems that we can find comedians in all corners of the earth – we are all in some way or another, the same.
I don’t have the same storytelling skills as my grandmother but nonetheless I have an opportunity ahead to live and tell some of the sometimes sad, sometimes mundane and sometimes extraordinary moments we live through. I think that there is something inherently comforting in sharing experiences and I hope that by telling these life experiences, it will bring comfort to someone else. Yes, I will be walking for 32 days but it isn’t really about that part. It is more about the things that I will be writing here and the experiences of others shared. It is a bonus that this project will end in a 32 day celebration of these people, a bit of a party.
This is also why I have realised that unintentionally I have excluded some people from this project and analysing it now, it does not fit in with the ultimate goal of storytelling and sharing. I have therefore decided not to walk solely for women but rather for anyone who has been touched by cancer. Since launching Conversations with Rose I’ve felt both privileged and sometimes overwhelmed by the stories people have shared with me and I want to share them all. These stories have inspired me and I hope by sharing them with more people, that they will do the same for others.
So I hope that if you are reading this that you will join me on this journey and the 32 day after party and help celebrate all these lives through the stories told.