I've just spent twenty hours visiting and farewelling my best friend Jill.
The flight over was just for her.
We've known each other from birth but started paying attention in year three. Her with her fancy pierced ears; me with my blunt-cut fringe and pig tails.
She's helped LC load me into an ambulance at the lowest point in my life and been there to see me get married, write a book and determinedly deal with a few demons.
I've seen her earn Dux of her course, been her bridesmaid, a godmother to one of her three fantastic children and cheered her as she ran (skipped in glee, actually) over the finish line of the 2010 Melbourne marathon.
In January this year, she was riding in the Jacob's Creek Down-under bike race and fell; somehow entangling handlebars with her fourteen year old son Patrick. She was knocked out for several minutes, Patrick seeing nothing but a limp body and blood all over the road in front of him. Her husband Kent SMSed a photo from the hospital bed that didn't resemble the girl/woman/friend/goddess I'd known.....
Five months of slow and steady recovery later sees the outside of her face healed but another year is needed for her brain to get back to normal. Truckloads of rehab assistance and patience is needed and as little noise, bright colour and movement as is feasibly possible. A trip to the supermarket provides too much stimuli to handle and can leave her with a huge headache and a need to sleep it off for hours.
"My world has got so much smaller," she despaired. "I'm sure that everyone just thinks I'm taking advantage of it and am being lazy."
Oh how wrong you are.
But yes, your world has shrunk - for now - dear friend. For someone who holds down a hugely stressful job, actively mothers three children (with the accompanying taxi driving and diary coordination), power walks, bike rides and marathon trains, helps her husband set up his own consultancy business and ensures that the house runs smoothly and eventfully, this has been and will continue to be a big, big change.
But a good one. I know that's incredibly trite and easy for me, the non brain-injured to say, but Jill needs a rest. One without guilt or obligation or the need to explain; even if just to herself.
One without having to reapply for her own job for the third time in four years or worry about whether she's achieving enough to earn the tightly-held approval of her parents. One where she can see - really see - that her husband is there for her, as ever, as always; his eyes joking one minute but full of love and concern the next.
All this I wanted to say to her over that afternoon, night and morning we spent together, but instead I was loud, goofed off too much and made her so very tired knowing that she'd end up paying triply for my visit with more physical pain the next day.
"I'll just tell myself that you're still only in Melbourne, and not Geneva," she said, as I climbed out of their car and grabbed my bag.
"You'll see us there next year," Kent called from the drivers' seat. "And remember, we're only a quick 27 hour flight away!"
I sobbed throughout my walk through insta-check in, x-rays and last boarding call and sniffled throughout the flight, ensuring that the couple next to me weren't keen to have a chat or quibble over the arm rest real estate.
Love Chunks drove through the freezing hail and I climbed into the car. "How was it?"
"It was wonderful, truly wonderful," I blubbered.
Jillian Elizabeth Gregory, the mold broke when they made you and every day of every month of every year you just keep getting better, stronger, bolder and more beautiful. Thank you so very much for being my friend - my life is so much the richer for it.
Twenty seven hours isn't really that far you know......