Jill was 56 when she died after a long and painful illness. I hate it when it's said, X lost her battle with cancer. I refuse to believe that cancer has the victory even when that's the way it seems. As a Christian of course I believe Jesus has the victory but those words can sound hollow to those left behind without faith. But there was no triumph for cancer in the way Jill dealt with her illness. She was a hero and heroes never lose.
This is what I said at her funeral. They're not particularly special words - I only came up with them on the morning of the funeral when walking George - but they say what I wanted to.
I only met Jill a few years ago. The first couple of times we met were social occasions and we didn’t have the chance to talk. Then when her illness began to demand attention I managed to visit her a few times in hospital. Cancer wards aren’t the most cheerful of places. If I'd had to undergo the pain, fear, treatment - with its horrific side effects - and agony that Jill suffered anyone visiting me would have left in a cloud of gloom. But my visits to Jill were, if nothing else, always a good laugh.
She would talk about Nigel, the children, the bulldog bash and camping, and her mum and the seemingly never-ending saga of house moving. Her courage, fortitude, determination and sense of humour were immense.
I wish I had known the dancing singing Jill. I asked Nigel and Kev to tell me stories about Jill. The stories they told me were, quite frankly, rude. I suspect I might have been slightly disapproving had I known her then. But that was the Jill they love, the Jill we all love.
Towards the end when the doctors asked if there was anything she’d always wanted to do she said, ‘Go to Rome.’ We talked about it, the city and the adaptations Nigel was going to make to the van to make it possible. I think both of us knew that she’d never get there but we all need a dream for the future. So I think if Jill would say anything today it would be this: go to Rome – or wherever it is that you’ve dreamed of. Go now, don’t wait for next year. And when you get there raise a glass to me.’