Jill Nickalls died this morning.
She was an amazing woman loving and welcoming. Her house, and especially her kitchen, was always open to visitors. Her kitchen was so cosy and relaxing with its paintings, overflowing open shelves, AGA and long wooden table you felt you could sit for hours. Jill always seemed to have something brewing on the stove or in the oven and she always asked you to stay and share it. I can’t think how many cups of tea I drank or meals I ate there.
She was a district nurse who retrained later to be a successful much appreciated Osteopath helping many many people recover and feel better. She was a great people person: warm and inclusive – this was all the more impressive because of the deafness that she struggled with most of her life.
She loved dogs and had a range over the years, Lucky the Labrador, Polo the mixed all sorts (but such a smart dog), George, (the beautiful but dim) Golden Retriever and latest Molly the terrier.
Jill was great company, funny and mischievous which was probably why she and my mum were such friends. She loved to dress up and play games.
She was a naturally creative person loving to paint, sculpt and make models. She attended many courses with my Mum and sister. But above all she was an amazing mother, not just to her three children but to the many others like me that she kind of adopted. She loved being a grandmother and was devoted to her five grandchildren.
When I tell her Jill is dead, my daughter comes and gives me a hug. We have quiet moment while I try not to cry. It is not unexpected she had advanced Brain Cancer and for the last week or so she has been (according to her daughter) unconscious. But still her actual death is like the poised guillotine finally falling. Releasing the grief that was waiting in the wings.
It also feels shocking that she and my mum should go within 5 months of each other. This time last year they both seemed in such good health. Although Jill’s end was slower than mum’s (she was longer at home being cared for) it was actually much quicker from her cancer diagnosis of glioblastoma to her dying from it: less than two months.
My heart goes out to all her family I know how this sudden loss rips through you. Her two sons, Tom and Richard and her daughter Clare, as well as all her grandchildren, adopted family and devoted friends.
It has been good that they have had these weeks to say goodbye. That her family and friends have been able to sit by her side, bring hot water bottles, tell jokes, play songs and read poems to her over the last few weeks. It is a special time and I remember how much it meant to me to be there with mum.
If the Atlantic hadn’t been in the way and her health so unpredictable I would have been there. One of the last things Jill said to me was ‘how do we get to see more of you?’ She was one of the people I missed most moving to America. She encouraged this blog and was a regular commentator till she became too unwell. Here is one of her last comments
“Waking in the night, and seeing…… Wales to Austin in the inbox. ……….this is a different Time……. it has a different tempo. The small hours have a special mode of being. Reminds me of when we , Clare and I, went to Halesworth, when Tamsyn was dying….A very special Time. We knew we would never see her again. So did she. As if every moment was special. As she was special . As you were special., Kathy. Are special .
Every ordinary moment could shine like this, but doesn’t. We don’t know., but then we did Jill xx. XxxxxxxxxxX”
Seems strangely prophetic now. Neither she nor I knew she was ill when she wrote this though it may well have been the tumor that woke her up.
My daughter asked me ‘What shall I call her when I tell my friends why I am sad? It seems strange to say she is just a family friend’. I agree with her. How to explain to others this relative that isn’t a relative?
Jill came into my life when I was 5 and stayed a constant close part of it from then on. We shared yearly family camping holidays in the most magical place: a diary farm in Skenfrith Wales (I loved those so much that I ended up moving to Wales).
Then over the years so many casual suppers and important celebrations: Christmas, Birthdays, Naming Ceremonies, Weddings and sadly funerals .
My mum and her were best friends. Without siblings Jill adopted my mum and another close friend as sisters. It is a cliche ‘that friends are the family you choose for yourself’. But it is also a truth and the Nickalls were the family that we chose to add to ours.
Her daughter Clare is my closest and oldest friend. I was Maid of Honour at her wedding. She is godmother / guide parent to my daughter. It gives me great pleasure that my daughter and her daughter are also friends. The closeness passing down the generations.
The connection between our families was solidified when my sister became Jill’s next door neighbor nearly 25 years ago. They have lived side by side ever since. They both partly stayed in their large houses after the kids left because of that connection. So many times our families have gone back and forth through the gate in the garden, for late night suppers and family parties.
The world will be an emptier place without Jill – but the love she spread so wide will remain and I know for certain she will be cherished in many, many hearts.